A SingHealth mobile registration service aimed at reducing the time spent waiting in line at outpatient clinics is set to be rolled out to more health institutions.
The Health Buddy app allows patients to register for consultations using mobile devices.
They then receive real-time updates on their queue status and can arrive at the clinic just before their queue number is called.
The service has been piloted at the Musculoskeletal Centre at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and Clinic 5A at the National Heart Centre Singapore since last October. It was piloted at SGH's Diabetes and Metabolism Centre from February this year.
SingHealth aims to introduce it at KK Women's and Children's Hospital and the National Cancer Centre by the end of this year.
"There is this high level of uncertainty and anxiety (among patients)," said SingHealth Office for Service Transformation director Lee Chen Ee. She said some patients even avoided going to the restroom out of fear they might be skipped over in the queue.
Ms Lee said waiting times can even go up to one hour in busy clinics when doctors attend to urgent cases, inadvertently pushing patients further back in the queue.
"Patients can now register with the mobile registration function from home and have a leisurely breakfast and read the newspapers, knowing they have already registered," she said.
SingHealth hopes that by October, at least 20 per cent of the 7,000 to 8,000 patients at the three pilot clinics will use the service. The take-up rate currently is only about 5 per cent.
The service was started in response to demand from patients; 75 per cent indicated in a 2015 SingHealth survey they wanted a mobile registration service.
Patients are reminded via SMS to register remotely on the day of their appointment. A queue number is then issued after they log in with their SingPass details.
Mr Sabir Ahamed, 49, goes to the National Heart Centre around five times a month for rehabilitation after undergoing heart bypass surgery more than a year ago. "I always go for another cup of coffee," he said, when asked about how he uses the time freed from waiting. "Now I don't have to keep looking at the TV screen for my queue number," he added.
Plans are also under way to introduce similar services to reduce waiting times at SingHealth's polyclinics. The waiting time for consultation at some SingHealth polyclinics can be more than an hour, according to data released by the Ministry of Health in March.
Since 2010, self-registration kiosks have been installed at public hospitals, such as Tan Tock Seng Hospital, for patients to register using their national registration identity cards (NRICs).
SingHealth also introduced the One Queue, One Bill system at some of its institutions in 2013. The system allows patients to use one queue number for multiple services and consultations across different clinics within the same institution.