The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission
A survey by the Singapore Eye Research Institute (Seri) during the circuit breaker last year found that about 55 per cent of 520 people aged 60 and above were unlikely to use digital medical services if the Covid-19 pandemic continues. Although half the respondents agreed that telemedicine would be helpful in reducing non-essential contact in clinics and hospitals, 77 per cent of them said they were uncomfortable with artificial intelligence (AI) interpreting their medical results.
Seeking healthcare online has become a more well-known option as a result of the pandemic. In May alone, more than 8,000 teleconsultations were done by institutions under the National University Health System (NUHS), said Mr Peter Forbes, NUHS' group chief digital officer.
Telemedicine is not just limited to video consultations with doctors, phone calls, chatbots and AI. Physiotherapy, rehabilitation, and even audiology services are being done over Zoom.
For instance, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital's audiology department offers tele-audiology services, which include connecting to a patient via a video call, and connecting to the patient's hearing device so that the audiologist can adjust the patient's hearing aid remotely.
Dr Gary Lee, the hospital's head of audiology, said patients aged 60 and above were seven times less likely to opt for tele-audiology sessions compared with younger patients: "The most commonly cited reasons include tele-audiology features being too complicated, the lack of technological skills and a general preference for face-to-face consultations.
But Dr Lee observed that live demos in the hospital or clinic and technical support from caregivers make elderly patients feel more comfortable to use tele-audiology in follow-up sessions.
Dr Teng Gim Gee, head of Alexandra Hospital's chronic programme, said digital platforms or apps can be designed with older patients in mind, so that they will be more receptive to telemedicine: "(These include) ease of access, intuitive design, larger font size, and simplifying the steps needed. For example, many have problems turning on audio upon launching Zoom."Media ArticlesNUHS in the NewsNTFGH in the NewsAH in the News