COVID-19 Edition: Telemedicine
Telemedicine & Telehealth
Telemedicine & telehealth are booming in Singapore, and it’s the future of healthcare as we know it. According to Mayo Clinic, telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access healthcare services remotely. These may be technologies you use from home or that your doctor uses to improve or support health care services.
In Singapore, the most popular form of telehealth usage is telemedicine. Telemedicine refers to the use of information technologies and electronic communications to provide remote clinical services to patients.
When COVID-19 first struck our shores, people became increasingly afraid of going out. Thus begins a rise in popularity of telemedicine apps. They enable you to consult a doctor either via video call or messaging. Afterwards, you can get medicine and a Medical Certificate (if needed) delivered straight to your home. Pretty convenient, I must say. To be able to skip the dreaded waiting time and registration is a blessing, especially when you’re sick.
With the existence of the COVID-19 virus, telemedicine allows long-distance patient and doctor contact, and minimises the risk of transmission to other patients in the clinic & to others on the way to the clinic. While a patient may not have the virus, let’s not forget that colds are easily transmittable as well.
The Future of Healthcare
Launched in 2018 by Senior Minister of State for Health Dr Lam, the Licensing Experimentation and Adaptation Programme (LEAP) is a regulatory sandbox initiative to better understand new innovative services by partnering with the industry at the early stages. This allows them to review an effective, efficient and appropriate way to support innovation, while delivering care that prioritises patient safety and welfare.
Telemedicine is set to become a key feature of Singapore’s healthcare landscape. It offers greater convenience and improved accessibility to medical support and medication through new digital self-help options. Over the past few years, Singapore has seen a growth in the telemedicine sector, with public and private players emerging to offer a variety of services to patients.
Mobile Medicine, also known as house call services, has been a constant feature of our healthcare system. It provides greater accessibility for patients who are unable to go to a hospital or a clinic by bringing doctors to their bedside. With our ageing population, mobile medicine services are expanding in both instance and scope, as the demand increases.
MOH takes a risk-based approach towards regulations. The Ministry has been focusing on licensing Doctor-led tele-consultation and house call services that provide direct clinical care such as triage, history taking, diagnosis and treatment under the Healthcare Services Act.
Doctor World is a leading telemedicine service in Singapore with really affordable pricing! A 15-minute consultation would set you back $18, inclusive of medicine delivery charges! A panel of doctors are available 24/7, and you can use any device for your consultation.
SATA CommHealth’s consultation service costs only $12 per consultation. However, medicines and medical certificates will be charged separately, so take that with a pinch of salt.
On the bright side, this service is available over WhatsApp, so you wouldn’t need to download any pesky applications. We’ve linked it below for your convenience!
WhiteCoat is one of the more advanced telemedicine applications. They offer consultations for a wide variety of common illnesses and symptoms.
Video-call consultations over the WhiteCoat app are also reasonably priced – $25 for office hours (Mon-Sat, 8am – 7.59pm), and $50 for after office hours (Sundays and PH, 8pm – 12am).
On top of general medical consultations, WhiteCoat also offers advice on travel medicines, chronic conditions, and sexual health. They are also able to provide specialist referrals should you require one. AIA Singapore has also partnered up with them – click here for more details!
Doctor Anywhere provides consultations in general medicine, medical aesthetics, and newborn health. Consultations are carried out via video calls on their app, and are fairly priced: $20 for GP and aesthetics consultations, and $15 for newborns. What’s more, their medication delivery service is free and your medication will be delivered in three hours!
Medical consultations are on-demand and available round-the-clock. Additionally, if you prefer, you can also schedule a teleconsultation with a medical professional of your choice.
MaNaDr telemedicine services are available round-the-clock via its specialised app, and you can choose to have your consultation either over text chats or video calls. Prices vary between different doctors, and change according to both duration and method of delivery.
MaNaDr can be very cost-effective, with as little as $10 for five text messages, or 3 minutes for a video consultation. It’s ideal if you can keep your consultation short and sharp, but not helpful if you require a bit more time and attention.
They have an online store that sells medicines, medical supplies, health supplements and personal care products as well!
In partnership with DBS Bank and Watsons, HiDoc offers an all-in-one comprehensive healthcare platform that combines telemedicine, health records-keeping, and online shopping.
You can sign up for telemedicine consultations, via the website or the app, with specialists of various disciplines – from cardiologists to urologists, ophthalmologists to paediatricians, general surgeons and more.
Consultation fees are not the cheapest. They start from $80 and can go up to $100 for the first consultation, and about $60 to $80 for subsequent consultations.
TCM lovers and hardcore believers rejoice! Eu Yan Sang has launched a WhatsApp telemedicine service that caters to common illnesses and conditions.
The service is free of charge, and is available daily from 10am to 10pm. Start a WhatsApp chat using the number in the image below and follow the on-screen instructions. You will then receive a voice call from one of Eu Yan Sang’s trained herbalists. Alternatively, they have a hotline as well.
You will then receive a list of products for your condition. You can purchase these on the their website and take them as prescribed to treat your illness. Eu Yan Sang’s telemedicine consultation is available in both English and Mandarin.
Do note that admin and dispensing fees for any medication prescribed during the teleconsultation will be charged at $12, and a delivery charge of $6 applies for all medication delivery orders.
With Parkway Shenton’s new teleconsult service, you can consult a doctor via video call at just $18 (without GST) per consultation. A delivery charge of $10 also applies for the medication. They provide an electronic medical certificate as well! Don’t worry, they’re valid and are exactly the same as you’d receive in their clinics.
Your medications are packed in tamper-proof opaque bags and delivered to your location within 3 hours from the end of the Teleconsult session, and the courier service will use two patient identifiers (full name and last 4 digits of NRIC) to verify that medications are delivered to the right patient.
ResCu’s teleconsult service is available from 12 pm – 2 am daily. You can consult their experienced medical team online via WhatsApp video. You’ll also need to have a valid Credit / Debit Card and email address ready.
ResCu can only offer a video consultation to persons of ages 12 years and above, and if you happen to be less than 16 years old, you will need to have a parent or guardian present during the entire video consultation.
They can only treat mild conditions via a video consultation. You can view the list of conditions here.
Medicines can usually be delivered within 3 hours following a consultation or within a chosen time slot the next day. Furthermore, ResCu does not carry or prescribe medicines with addictive potential such as benzodiazepines, sleeping medicines, opiate / codeine based medicines or medicines for mental health.
If you have any questions relating to the conditions discussed and treated during your video consultation, you can message them for advice via WhatsApp within the following 24 hours.
Telemedicine applications have certainly changed going to the clinic for mild symptoms. They provide delivery for medication and consultations can be done from the comfort of one’s own home. That’s great news! However, they’re still limited by the fact that a doctor cannot perform a physical examination on the patient, which can shed light on other underlying issues a patient might have.
Medicine will definitely make technological advances in the future. We might even have our own automatic vital sign monitoring system implanted in our bodies. But that might be a little far down the road. Till then, let’s wait and see what MOH comes up with next.