Singapore has decided to prioritise telehealth services to support its ageing population, it was announced yesterday.

The government’s healthcare tech provider, Integrated Health Information Systems, said that it will launch new services throughout the year that let elderly people consult a doctor through smartphones or other devices in their own home.

This will complement approaches that have been trialled on young patients since November 2016.

“For patients, there is the convenience factor: They don’t have to travel, and the elderly don’t have to get their children to take leave to bring them to the clinic,” said Associate Professor Low Cheng Ooi, Chief Clinical Informatics Officer of IHiS.

“From the clinical and healthcare point of view, [there is the] potential for saving time, being productive; being able to see more patients.”

Patients currently consult doctors and nurses for services ranging from paediatrics and support for new mothers to speech therapy and post-stroke care. Later in 2017, IHiS will add two new initiatives: telerehabilitation and vital signs monitoring.

The agency also announced that the video service will be protected with encryption and two-factor authentication. The latter means that patients log in using a password, and then receive an SMS message to verify their identity.

However, IHiS noted that it would look to more sophisticated techniques as the system is adopted throughout the whole country.

As of 2016, one in eight Singaporeans is aged 65 years and above, but this will double by 2030 when it will be one in four, according to Population.sg.

190 patients have currently used telehealth services since November 2016, IHiS told GovInsider.

Singapore has introduced other elderly care initiatives in the past. In 2015, a handful of homes in west Singapore were fitted out with sensors that could monitor if an elderly person met with a fall.

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