WhyItMatters

Shaping future of healthcare

The Ministry of Health has asked for feedback over the next six weeks on the proposed changes to laws governing the provision of healthcare in Singapore.

Among other things, the proposed Healthcare Services Act broadens the ministry's oversight to include treatments and services carried out online or via mobile apps.

It also delimits the use of the National Electronic Health Record once it becomes mandatory for all healthcare providers to input patient information.

The proposed rules on this have already undergone changes, given the reaction to the decision. An example is to refuse employers and insurers access to people's medical history through their medical staff.

As some aspects of the proposed Act affect people directly, it is good that the ministry is opening up the discussion to all. A copy of the draft Bill has been put online so everyone can see what is being planned. Once passed, it will govern the way healthcare is provided for many years to come.

It would add unnecessary work if changes need to be made in the future because of a lack of foresight now. Giving everyone their say while the Act is still being formulated is more likely to result in something that the majority considers fair.

Already, insurers are objecting to being kept out of people's medical history. They believe that having access will help them improve "claims servicing".

They are probably correct, as this will allow them to know if policy holders have pre-existing diseases. Those who have will not be covered.

Insurers can argue that people are expected to tell insurers about pre-existing diseases in the first place, so giving them access just simplifies matters. On the other hand, people worry that insurers may take a minor incident and blow it up to refuse coverage.

Before this gets cast in stone, it is good to hear arguments from both sides. The solution may not be an either/or scenario. It might well be a compromise acceptable to all.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2018, with the headline 'Shaping future of healthcare'. Print Edition | Subscribe