Electronic MCs should only be issued after proper clinical assessment, clarifies Singapore’s Ministry of Health

Amidst the growing popularity of telemedicine apps, therein lies another problem – that of the MCs or medical certificates, albeit the electronic version. However, there has been some concerns with regards to their validity.

According to a statement made on 14 September, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has clarified that doctors who give out the electronic medical certificates (MC) through follow the proper procedures and ensure they are appropriately issued.

In a separate interview with Channel NewsAsia, a MOH spokesman also stressed the need for proper checks and the need for regulations to be followed.

“The issuance of a medical certificate by a doctor, regardless of whether it is in a paper or electronic format, carries with it the responsibility to ensure that the patient requires it on proper medical grounds and that such grounds have been arrived at through comprehensive clinical assessment,” he said.

In the same interview he further explained, “When medical certificates are generated electronically and where doctors are in control of the systems, doctors must ensure that there are security protocols to prevent fraudulent issuance of the certificates.”

Over the past few years, telemedicine has become more popular especially with the advent of the smart phone. The term ‘telemedicine’ is wide ranging but generally covers consultation with a doctor or healthcare provider in any form via phone, text, or video. With this, you can now have a doctor’s appointment via video call, get a prescription filled through a mobile app, and even see a therapist virtually. Some of the popular apps include Doctor on Demand, Pingmd and Healthtap. With these telemedicine apps for your iPhone or Android, you can literally have a doctor in the palm of your hand.

With the popularity of telemedicine apps in Singapore, consumers have wondered if MCs issued through virtual consultations (VCs) will be as credible as those issued when a patient visits a doctor’s clinic. To that end, MOH noted that it is the onus of the doctor to ensure that they uphold the quality of care given and behave professionally at all times. At the same time, patients should also note that there will be situations where a face-to-face consultation would be needed for a more thorough assessment of their condition. In this case, VCs might not be appropriate.

However, various health professionals admitted that VCs would enable patients to remotely consult their doctors, saving them travelling time and costs as well as waiting time at hospitals, which could benefit patients who have trouble moving around. Patient safety, however, remains at the forefront.

MOH said healthcare providers should refer to the National Telemedicine Guidelines, issued in 2015, for best practices guidelines on delivering telemedicine services safely and accurately.

According to the guide, “any telemedicine service must be provided as part of a structured and well-organized system, and the overall standard of care delivered by the system must not be any less compared to a service not involving telemedicine”.



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