SINGAPORE - The Health Ministry (MOH) is studying how doctors can diagnose patients and prescribe medication through video calls, as part of its new "regulatory sandbox" to encourage innovation in healthcare.
The "sandbox" - known as the Licensing Experimentation and Adaptation Programme - was first announced during the debate on the ministry's budget earlier this year. Healthcare providers taking part in the programme can experiment with new services in a relaxed regulatory environment, even though basic safeguards for patient welfare will still be in place.
Telemedicine services are the first to come under the programme, which was officially launched on Wednesday.
"Our plan is to eventually regulate telemedicine as a licensed healthcare service after the successful completion of the regulatory sandbox," said MOH.
Two companies - Ring MD and WhiteCoat - are now part of the scheme.
Both allow users to consult a doctor via a smartphone app. Besides talking to a doctor through video calls, users can arrange for prescribed medication to be delivered to them at home, and receive virtual medical certificates if necessary.
The idea behind the scheme is to give patients early access to new healthcare models in a "safe and controlled environment", like that in a sandbox. If successful, these services could then become mainstream.
Although some public hospitals are already providing video consultation services, they are generally not used to diagnose medical conditions. Instead, doctors use them to monitor patients whose conditions are relatively stable.
MOH said telemedicine offers patients greater convenience and better access to medical support and medication.
"It has the potential to enhance productivity and cost-effectiveness, and become an impactful enabler in Singapore's healthcare landscape," it said.