New law to license, regulate emerging healthcare services

New law to license, regulate emerging healthcare services

As new forms of healthcare such as telemedicine and mobile medical services become common, a new law seeks to better regulate them to safeguard the safety and welfare of patients.

The Healthcare Services Bill was approved by Parliament yesterday and will give the authorities powers to license new models of care.

It will replace the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act, first enacted four decades ago, which licensed healthcare providers based on their physical premises.

For instance, nursing homes will now be able to provide dementia care and geriatric clinical services at one location. Hospitals or medical clinics can also provide telemedicine, offering more convenience and cost savings to patients, especially the aged sick with minor ailments or who are following up on chronic conditions.

To prevent public misperception that such services are endorsed and licensed due to their close proximity and association with licensed services, they will not be allowed to co-locate with or within a licensed service, unless approval is given. For instance, a spa cannot be co-located with a medical clinic.

The last phase is for current hospital licensees and other newly regulated services like telemedicine as well as new, innovative and potentially costly treatments like proton beam therapy, a new form of radiation therapy to treat cancer.

MOH said several initiatives are in place to ensure new licensees are ready, such as the voluntary accreditation scheme (VAS) for private ambulance operators. More than 50 percent of ambulances have come on board the VAS, and the ministry will work with VAS ambulance operators to develop and publish the range of fees charged so that consumers can make better-informed choices on the providers to use.