Skip queue at the clinic - use app to 'see' the doctor

MR JUSTIN FULCHER, RingMD chief executive, on the benefits of telemedicine.
MR JUSTIN FULCHER, RingMD chief executive, on the benefits of telemedicine.

Diagnosis via video call among ideas being tested under MOH's 'regulatory sandbox'

The Health Ministry (MOH) is studying how doctors can diagnose and treat patients 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 mentioned in Parliament last month.

Telemedicine services are the first to come under the programme, which was officially launched yesterday.

"Our plan is to eventually regulate telemedicine as a licensed healthcare service after the successful completion of the regulatory sandbox," said MOH.

Telemedicine is not yet regulated here, although the ministry plans to do so under the upcoming Healthcare Services Act, which will be tabled in Parliament later this year.

It added that telemedicine offers patients convenience and better access to medical services.

CONVENIENT

We believe that technology can increase the convenience of receiving healthcare without affecting the quality of care, the safety of the patient or the security of their personal data.

MR JUSTIN FULCHER, RingMD chief executive, on the benefits of telemedicine.

"It has the potential to enhance productivity and cost-effectiveness, and become an impactful enabler in Singapore's healthcare landscape," the ministry said.

The idea behind the regulatory sandbox is to give patients early access to new healthcare models in a "safe and controlled environment". At the same time, industry players will be able to test new services.

If successful, these services could become mainstream.

Two companies - RingMD and WhiteCoat - are part of the new scheme. Both allow users to consult a general practitioner via a smartphone app.

Besides talking to a doctor through video calls, people can arrange for prescribed medication to be delivered to them at home, and receive virtual medical certificates if necessary.

RingMD chief executive Justin Fulcher said patients now have to travel to a clinic and sit in a waiting room surrounded by other sick people before they can consult a doctor.

"We believe that technology can increase the convenience of receiving healthcare without affecting the quality of care, the safety of the patient or the security of their personal data," he added.

RingMD charges $20 for a basic consultation that lasts less than 10 minutes.

Those who want their medication delivered to them will have to pay a delivery fee on top of medication costs.

Although several public healthcare institutions already use video consultations, they do not use them to diagnose medical conditions.

Instead, doctors typically use them to monitor patients whose conditions are relatively stable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2018, with the headline 'Skip queue at the clinic - use app to 'see' the doctor'. Print Edition | Subscribe