(Image Credit: IHiS Facebook page)
Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), the technology agency for Singapore healthcare, announced the implementation of a Smart Health Video Consultation (SHVC) for healthcare on April 12. This will enable patients to consult healthcare professionals online from anywhere.
Video consultation is used in most countries to extend healthcare to patients who are separated by a large geographical distance from healthcare providers. Though distances are not a significant concern in Singapore, telehealth technologies still offer an opportunity to improve patient service, support collaborations between healthcare professionals across locations, and improve overall productivity of the healthcare system.
Bruce Liang, Chief Executive Officer of IHiS and Chief Information Officer of Ministry of Health (MOH) elaborated on the benefits,“For patients with mobility issues or post-discharge patients, this is a boon as it brings care into the home, enables patients to rest at home, and reduces caregiver absence from work. In the event of a pandemic, this solution would help reduce population exposure to communicable diseases. Healthcare professionals can also achieve productivity gains with this Smart Health initiative as time saved from travelling to nursing homes enables them to see more patients, who in turn receive more timely care.”
Features and uses
The initiative has been implemented for selected services at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), Institute of Mental Health, Singapore General Hospital, and Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
Examples of areas where SHVC will be used include follow-up services for paediatric eczema pharmacy consultation, paediatric home care services, lactation consultation, and speech therapy for KKH patients; post-stroke, communicable disease, cancer patient care, and more at other institutions. These services are guided by the National Telemedicine Guidelines to ensure patient safety and confidentiality.
The platform can be used for Video Consultation appointment scheduling, instant messaging, and more. The private virtual consultation sessions use end-to-end encryption and protected with security measures and proven technologies, such as two-factor authentication. The platform is interoperable and is capable of integrating with national and other IT systems when required for care delivery.
A/Prof. Low Cheng Ooi, Chief Clinical Informatics Officer of IHiS and Chief Medical Informatics Officer at MOH, said: “The new Video Consultation platform was designed for various healthcare uses and settings, with high quality video and audio for more accurate assessment of patients’ conditions, and features such as multi-party video conferencing for consultation with multi-disciplinary care teams, annotation, file sharing and display of medical reports or images for reference during the consultation. This also enables our healthcare teams to monitor patients more regularly than traditional face-to-face appointments. This helps clinicians to deliver better care and health to the population.”
Mr. Liang explained the merits of the new platform over previous ones, “Previous platforms used were limited by fixed locations, and trade-offs of either high setup costs or poor video quality, making it difficult for healthcare institutions to scale up its use. The new features-rich cloud-based secure system leverages the prevalent use of consumer devices with cameras to enhance access to healthcare services, and is developed as a common platform for high scalability across the health ecosystem with little upfront costs.”
Associate Professor Ng Kee Chong, Campus Director, Medical Innovation and Care Transformation, and Chairman, Division of Medicine at KKH highlighted the security features of the platform which offer assurance that confidentiality of patient information and data is safeguarded. He added, “The four services in which we have introduced Video Consultation have seen encouraging take-up rates, and the convenience and user-friendly interface have drawn positive feedback from patients and caregivers.”
Further plans for 2017
According to the press release, the platform will be made available at National University Hospital and National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) in mid-2017.
The Smart Video Consultation is the first of three telehealth solutions to support MOH’s shift to bring care beyond the hospitals to the community. Two more solutions, Tele-rehabilitation and Vital Signs Monitoring will be introduced later in 2017 to empower patients to self-care and to enable ageing-in-place.
Read the press release here.