According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), the definition of telemedicine is “That is, the assessment of health, diagnosis, treatment, intervention or care where the service is provided exclusively over a distance through the use of info-communications technology by a medical practitioner or dentist.”.
The Singapore government had started earlier than the pandemic, with regards to their attempt to develop telemedicine. In 2018, LEAP, which stands for Licensing Experiment and Adaptation Programme, was launched by the Singapore government for telemedicine providers. As a regulatory sandbox, it was a way for the government the products and processes of telemedicine, and the risks and opportunities as well.
According to Singapore’s Ministry of Health’s (MOH) website, in 2022 is when the Healthcare Services Act (HCSA) will start being implemented in 3 phrases. The licensing of telemedicine, with the focus being on the licensing of teleconsultations that are direct doctor and/or dentist-led, will be in phase 3, during the period of end 2023.
There are many patients in Singapore who do not particularly trust telemedicine, and would rather meet a doctor face-to-face. However, with MOH proceeding with licensing telemedicine providers, thereby ensuring the quality of the doctors and clinics, this will likely encourage more people to go for telemedicine.
Another matter is the issue of the security of the consultation. As this is a matter of the patient’s privacy, telemedicine providers in Singapore, and in general, must ensure that there is adequate protection of the platform by which they use to carry out the telemedicine consultation.
Internet speed and quality
Since telemedicine is done online, it is of vital importance that the speed of the internet is high and stable, as well as the devices used. On this end, both patients and doctors have to ensure that their devices and internet are adequate for a smooth consultation to be carried out. Singapore has sufficient network infrastructure for the country, therefore the issue would have to be resolved with regards to the telemedicine providers and patients.
Singapore pandemic challenges
As there was a surge in demand during the pandemic for telemedicine in Singapore, telemedicine providers had faced challenges with regards to scaling-up. As a result of such challenges, patients have experienced waiting periods that are longer, and also a lower quality of care.
Telemedicine is highly useful, especially during a pandemic. For Singapore, it will likely continue on in the future to be one of the ways people carry out consultations. Telemedicine frees up more space for patients who are actually required to physically go to clinics or hospitals, such as to have physical check-ups, lab tests and so on.