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Credit: Ministry of Health, Singapore

Credit: Ministry of Health, Singapore

First healthcare regulatory sandbox launched in Singapore for telemedicine services

The Ministry of Health (MOH) in Singapore has launched a new Licensing Experimentation and Adaptation Programme (LEAP), beginning with telemedicine services.

LEAP was first announced by Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr Lam Pin Min, at the 2018 Committee of Supply debate. It will provide regulatory sandboxes that enable new and innovative healthcare models and services to be developed and refined in a safe and controlled environment. Participating providers and MOH will achieve this through clear boundary conditions, data governance measures and risk mitigation strategies.

Telemedicine will be the first service to be explored under LEAP. Telemedicine enables greater convenience and improved accessibility to medical support and medication through new digital self-help options. It has the potential to enhance productivity and cost-effectiveness, and become an impactful enabler in Singapore’s healthcare landscape.

MOH will take a risk-based approach by focusing on tele-consultation services, which provide direct clinical care (e.g. diagnosis and intervention) between a doctor and patient, and work with the participating providers to bring about a safe and vibrant telemedicine environment.

The plan is to eventually regulate telemedicine as a licensed healthcare service after the successful completion of the regulatory sandbox.

Earlier this year, MOH invited public feedback on a proposed Bill for regulation of healthcare services, which will replace the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act (PHMCA). The Bill will shift the regulatory basis from ‘premises-based’ licensing to ‘services-based’ licensing and include telemedicine which was not regulated under the PHMCA.

The first two providers participating in the programme are WhiteCoat and RingMD.  More providers may come on board later, as more telemedicine providers recognise the benefits of LEAP and work to meet the requirements.

MOH sandbox providers will bear a Regulatory Sandbox logo for identification purposes:

Credit: Ministry of Health, Singapore

LEAP is expected to bring about a wide range of potential benefits for patients and caregivers, as well healthcare providers, and also MOH.

Patients and caregivers utilising services under LEAP will benefit from early access to new healthcare models with the assurance that essential safety and risk mitigation measures are in place.  Being able to develop an appropriate and clear regulatory regime with LEAP will enable the growth of these services that can bring benefits to more patients and caregivers, while safeguarding their interest.

Providers participating in the regulatory sandbox will be able to introduce new healthcare models or evolve their current models in a safe manner, with early visibility over the eventual regulatory environment. This would position them to transit more seamlessly into the eventual regulatory framework and meet patient safety and welfare requirements. 

Furthermore, LEAP will enable MOH to keep in step with the fast-evolving healthcare landscape.  By working alongside providers participating in the sandbox, MOH can develop more timely, fit-for-purpose and effective regulations that support new services that benefit patients while safeguarding their interests. Services under the sandbox can eventually transition to licensed services. 

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