As part of efforts to bolster its telemedicine services, healthcare group SingHealth will be setting up a centralised telehealth hub at Eunos Polyclinic.

It will bring together clinical and administrative staff involved in telehealth under one roof, and be equipped with soundproof pods for consultations.

This was announced by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung during the opening of the new Tampines North Polyclinic on Friday.

“It will be a more conducive facility for telehealth, and will be able to reap efficiencies of scale,” he said of the hub. It is not known when it will become operational.

Leveraging telemedicine will help meet the rising demand for healthcare, Mr Ong said, noting that video consultations are suitable for a range of primary care cases as well as follow-up consultations for those with chronic conditions.

Friday’s announcement comes after SingHealth Polyclinics began trialling its Acute-On-Demand TeleHealth service at Eunos Polyclinic in January.

The service, which is available to all patients, is meant for those who want to consult doctors for general medical conditions like acute respiratory illness or gastroenteritis.

Plans are under way to bring other video consultation services, such as physiotherapy, to Tampines North Polyclinic.

These include the Primary Tech- Enhanced Care home blood pressure monitoring programme, which allows patients with high blood pressure to better manage their condition using technology and teleconsultations.

SingHealth Polyclinics chief executive David Ng said that as at April 2023, it has conducted more than 36,000 video-consultations.

“As we expand our (video-consultation) services and tap technology to empower our patients in self-monitoring of their blood pressure and blood glucose level, we will increase our efforts to enable those who are less digitally savvy, or unable to afford telemedicine services, through community partnerships,” he added.

He noted that the TeleHealth Service for Seniors, available at the Bedok and Marine Parade polyclinics, will be expanded to the rest of the group’s polyclinics, benefiting more elderly patients.

Tampines North Polyclinic is Singapore’s 24th polyclinic and the 10th under SingHealth.

It is expected to see about 500 patients a day initially, a number that is expected to grow to about 700 patients a day, said Tampines North Polyclinic clinic director Sabrina Wee.

It incorporates eco-friendly features such as solar panels and high-efficiency air-conditioning chillers, as well as pandemic preparedness measures like shutters that can effectively split the building into two.

Mr Ong said the healthcare system continues to manage high patient loads even after the end of the pandemic.

“As a result, residents are finding that queues and waiting times are longer, and it is harder to make appointments,” he noted.

Singapore has to expand its primary care capacity, which was delayed during the pandemic, the minister said.

Sembawang Polyclinic will open in November, while Khatib Polyclinic and the redeveloped Pasir Ris Polyclinic will open in 2024.

“From 2025 to 2030, more polyclinics will come into operation, in Bidadari, Bishan, Kaki Bukit, Serangoon, Taman Jurong and Tengah,” said Mr Ong.

This means the Republic will hit its target of 32 polyclinics by 2030, he added.