Imagine not having to leave the comfort of your home but still be able to get medical care from a doctor simply by logging on to your computer or using a mobile phone app.
This service is fast growing in Southeast Asia, especially as a way to provide healthcare to the less mobile patients or underserved locations.
Telehealth, or telemedicine, is the use of telecommunication and IT to provide health care and services remotely.
For example, someone who lives in a rural setting or is not able to conveniently travel to the doctor due to age or injury will be able to use the computer to have a video conference with a health professional and be able to receive timely medical advice.
Where is it available?
Telemedicine services are currently being trialled in Singapore though the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) regulatory sandbox, the Licensing Experimentation and Adaptation Programme.
The trial launched in April with two service providers, with four more coming onboard in September.
One of the new providers is Speedoc, which runs an app that allows patients to request for a house call, while another, Doctor Anywhere, provides video conferencing with medical professionals through an app and also delivery of the medicine.
MOH will ultimately regulate the telehealth industry as a licensed healthcare service after the regulatory sandbox period.
What about other parts of Asia?
Indonesia is another such place where telemedicine can, quite literally, be life-saving.
Famous for hours-long traffic congestions in the city, telemedicine services, such as the one provided by Halodoc, helps patients receive timely care.
The service began in 2016 and now has 20 million users and 20,000 doctors in its database.
Users can pick a doctor from the app, have a video consultation, and also purchase medicine that will then be delivered.
Malaysia also has several providers, although public awareness of the service is still low.
A recent addition, Teleme, also includes non-medical professionals such as psychologists, physiotherapists and nutritionist, as a way to provide a holistic approach to health.