We Tried Out Telemedicine & This Is How It Went
It's a fine day but you wake up feeling under the weather. The thermometer flashes orange, advertising your fever. And then there's that pounding headache. You try to get up but your body feels like a ten-tonne truck, and the thought of dragging your feet to the GP is the last thing on your mind right now. All you want to do is to crash between your soft bedsheets.
It's a scenario we're all familiar with. Illnesses come and go - sometimes mild, and some downright debilitating. After all, we're only human. And a time will come when visiting a doctor is inconvenient - there're little ones at home with no one to care for them; some of us may have mobility difficulties, or maybe we're just lazy to head out. Bolstered by fears of community spread of the Covid-19 virus, Singaporeans are also more hesitant to head out.
So what can we do? This is where telemedicine comes in. We heard that more healthcare practitioners are shifting their work online, replacing some face-to-face consultations with virtual sessions through telephone or video conferencing. I'm curious, so when I finally fell sick, I decided to try out this service which is still pretty new in the market.
(Due to patient confidentiality, no private pictures or information will be posted. This is not a sponsored article.)
Stage 1: Choosing the platform
There are many apps and websites offering telemedicine services in Singapore; so finding the right platform is important. Below is a table from SingSaver:
As I've learned, some platforms provide services only for specific conditions such as a cough or fever. Others offer consultations for a targeted group, like the TCM service offered by Eu Yan Sang. So you'll have to check the FAQs and website to find out more. It was a Sunday morning, and I went with Doctors Anywhere as the other two had no doctors available immediately. Also, an app is more convenient for me.
Stage 2: Registration
Signing up for an account was relatively fuss-free - it took probably about 2 minutes to complete the entire process. I liked that it required me to upload an image of my NRIC, which the other 2 apps didn't ask for. After completing the process, it also informed me that the consultation fee would be a flat fee of $20.
Stage 3: Waiting for a doctor
The app took me to a waiting area and activated my front-facing camera for the video call. This little feature was great because as much as I know looks don't matter when it comes to seeing the doctor, I'd still like to look presentable before the doctor sees me.
I was pleasantly surprised when I got connected to a doctor in less than 30 seconds. The app also let me know the clinic's name, address and who will be seeing me, so it's pretty legit.
Stage 4: Consultation
I was brought into a video call with a friendly and smiling female doctor. I think she was at home as a wardrobe was seen behind her. That felt a little weird. Nonetheless, she went into consultation mode immediately and we completed the session like how it would have went in a normal clinic, sans physical contact.
Stage 5: Payment
After the video consultation, the app updated to inform me that the doctor is preparing my prescription. I was redirected to a payment portal to pay the $20 consultation fee. Once that was done, I closed the app and went about with other stuff.
A ping, and I got a notification that my prescription was ready. The app prompted me to go in to make payment for the medication. I chose the earliest delivery time slot and exited the app, waiting for the drugs I so needed to relieve my pain.
Stage 6: Delivery
A little past 2 hours, my doorbell rang and a Lalamove deliveryman was at my doorstep. I tried to ask my daughter to accept the delivery on my behalf but was unsuccessful. The delivery required the patient to accept the package personally. That's another plus point for me. My medication was packed in a polymailer bag, labelled with my name and the clinic. Within the bag was my pills, along with the receipt and several other documents.
My virgin experience with telemedicine went relatively well. It was hands-down the quickest medical process I've been through, and the convenience is great. I was able to receive prompt medical attention without having to even leave my room. Pricing wise, it was slightly cheaper than what my family doctor charged. As these doctors are actual practicing doctors, you'll be able to get referrals and MCs too.
However, telemedicine would probably not be for you if you have a condition which would benefit from a face-to-face diagnosis. Also, I think there may be a chance of misdiagnosis or getting unnecessary medication such as antibiotics without getting physical - according to this article. So do take the downside into consideration before getting onboard the telemedi-train.
For the rest of us who rely on food delivery apps and social media, telemedicine is another go-to icon to add into our smartphones. It still has its hits and misses, but me thinks telemedicine has a strong potential to become the platform of choice for general medicine in future.