Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Better patient care with improved teleconsultation

As the Covid-19 outbreak continues to cause disruptions, organisations here have had to adapt to 'business as usual' in a pandemic world. From robot cleaners to remote physiotherapy sessions to digital management platforms, Timothy Goh looks at five different types of technology that have been adopted here in the fight against Covid-19, and what the future might look like.

A doctor conducting a teleconsultation session at one of NHGP's polyclinics. PHOTO: NATIONAL HEALTHCARE GROUP POLYCLINICS
A doctor conducting a teleconsultation session at one of NHGP's polyclinics. PHOTO: NATIONAL HEALTHCARE GROUP POLYCLINICS

Embracing tech in Covid-19 fight

More than 200 doctors in the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP) have been trained to check on patients via video link as the group enhanced its tele-consultation services to ensure patients continue to get the medical help they need during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Consultant and head of special projects (primary care) at NHGP David Ng said patients had been worried about going down to clinics in person due to the outbreak.

There was also a need to ensure safe distancing at the group's six polyclinics.

Dr Ng said that NHGP had already been offering phone consultation services, which were handled only by nurses and did not involve video.

"The biggest problem with phone consultation is there is virtually no way to do any form of assessment of the patient. I can't see if you are looking quite pale or sickly - sometimes you can sound quite well over the phone, but you actually look under the weather," he said.

This, in turn, limits the types of patients who can receive help over the phone.

So, NHGP trained all its doctors to use videoconferencing software over the past three months, and had them complete a day-long online telemedicine course.

It also bought the necessary hardware and software for them to carry out teleconsultations, and established internal protocols for such sessions.

These enhancements have allowed NHGP to roll out a suite of teleconsultation services over the course of the Covid-19 outbreak, including consultations with psychologists, physiotherapists and dietitians.

More than 12,000 patients have opted to use these services since early April, and their response has largely been positive, said Dr Ng.

He added: "Covid-19 has brought about opportunities to change the way we work.

"There is definitely a push to keep and sustain these services in the long run, even after the pandemic is over. It brings a lot of convenience to our patients, so it looks set to stay."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Better patient care with improved teleconsultation. Subscribe