By Linette Lai, The Straits Times

Two hospitals are getting patients to go online to settle financial matters before admission, rather than meeting a counsellor in person.

The hope is that this pilot project will give people more time to digest information before making a decision about their hospital stay.

It will also give staff more time with those - such as the elderly - who still prefer the personal touch.

The project involves the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), both of which fall under the SingHealth Group.

"We live in an age where many things can be done online, and we wanted to give patients that option," said Ms Lee Chen Ee, director of the office for service transformation at SingHealth.

"We are hoping that... we will have more time to serve patients who are not tech-savvy, to shorten waiting times for them and maybe even spend a bit more time going through (things) with them more slowly."

Typically, patients wait around 20 minutes before they can see a financial counsellor to settle pre-admission matters - meaning the whole process can take around 40 minutes. During the process, patients compare costs, choose their ward class, see the estimated bill size and then pay the initial deposit.

The new Web portal, called Admissions Buddy, allows patients to do all these things online, As before, they can also see what proportion of the bill can be covered by schemes such as MediShield Life by logging in with their SingPass.

The project started at KKH last year, and was rolled out to SGH in January. It ties in with a push to go paperless throughout the financial counselling process by switching to electronic forms. Other institutions under SingHealth, such as the National Heart Centre Singapore, are also involved.

Ms Nur Mu'azah Almahdi, 35, has experienced both ways of doing things - once when her husband was warded in another hospital, and once when she went for a cyst removal operation at KKH last month.

"When my husband was warded, there were so many forms to fill, it took me nearly 30 minutes," said the senior administrator. "With the waiting, in total it was about 1.5 hours."

With the online form, she was done in 10 minutes. Ms Mu'azah said she does not miss the face-to-face contact: "Most of the things I already understood, so I just filled it up and didn't have too many questions."