SingHealth testing facial recognition system for hospital visitors

Visitors will be required to upload a selfie photograph of themselves as part of the registration process. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - People visiting patients at Outram Community Hospital (OCH) and SingHealth Tower can now skip the queues to register themselves and instead scan their faces to gain entry to the wards.

They can register themselves online ahead of their visits using a system developed by SingHealth and Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS).

They will be required to upload a selfie photograph as part of the registration process.

The online tool employs the face verification system developed by the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) for national identification system SingPass.

The visitors’ faces will be scanned at a gantry by a camera, which will also take their body temperatures.

They will be granted access should their faces and identities match, and if their temperatures are within the healthy range. The cameras are able to identify visitors even if they wear face masks, while depth-sensory capabilities prevent the devices from being fooled by photos or video recordings.

The use of facial recognition for visitors has been in place since Sept 5 at SingHealth Tower – where OCH occupies six storeys – on the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) campus, as part of a six-month trial of the technology. The system, which can also restrict entry to visitors based on prevailing public health requirements, is expected to eventually be rolled out to other SingHealth institutions.

The process is expected to save visitors anywhere between five and 15 minutes of queueing time, said SGH patient support services director Lee Jiunn Kee.

Another benefit is that the entire process is contactless, which helps mitigate viral transmission, he added.

Mr Lee said those who do not wish to register their faces will still be able to register themselves online and enter the gantries using their physical or digital NRICs. Traditional counters and digital kiosks will also be available onsite for the elderly and others unfamiliar with the online registration process.

The visitors’ faces will be scanned at a gantry by a camera, which will also take their body temperatures. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

The system is expected to be included as part of an upgrade of SGH’s automated visitor management system in 2024, said Mr Lee.

As for safeguards to protect the data of visitors, IHiS deputy chief executive Ong Leong Seng said the information is encrypted to industry standards, and will be deleted upon the patient’s discharge. He added that IHiS is keen to work with the other healthcare clusters on the implementation of facial recognition technology in visitor management or other areas.

Though the cost of developing the system was not provided, Mr Lee said hardware and development costs were “kept manageable” as it is an enhancement of the existing automated visitor management system.

Facial recognition is increasingly being used here.

In October, the Home Team Science and Technology Agency and the Singapore Civil Defence Force said they started using facial recognition technology as part of a self-checkout system at an automated medical store at the Punggol Fire Station.

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