, Hong Kong

Government's telehealth push 'underwhelming': law firm

Mayer Brown wants a more assertive government approach.

The government’s 2021/22 spending plan may have recognized the need for telehealth services, but global law firm Mayer Brown said the measures are “underwhelming” in light of existing demand.

“Although the government has stated its policy to prioritise the implementation of telehealth services in public hospitals, a gap remains between what healthcare services in Hong Kong could be and the situation as it stands,” said David Ellis, partner at Mayer Brown.

In the 2021/22 budget statement, the Hong Kong government outlined its plans to enable a “smart hospital”, including a location-based services and navigation technology, a bed booking system, and a blood taking scheduling system.

The new Chinese Medicine Hospital, which will likely be operational in 2024, is expected to employ smart hospital technologies.

A June 2020 survey by the Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies (APIAS) of Lingnan University, as cited by Ellis, found more than 60% of 638 senior citizen respondents willing to try teleconsultations should a relevant technology be developed.

“There is clearly demand for this type of service. In the light of this while one should welcome that the government covered e-health in the Policy Address, it is a little underwhelming,” he added.

On this note, Ellis recommended a more assertive approach should be taken to fast-track the creation of a more comprehensive legislative framework.

He said the government may follow the example of Singapore’s National Telemedicine Guidelines in 2015, which amongst others encourage that care be delivered exclusively by telemedicine, where face-to-face consultations are not possible.

“There is no equivalent of this in the current Hong Kong framework,” he added.

Hong Kong had also previously introduced that “HA Go,” under the Hospital Authority (HA), which serves as a one-stop mobile platform that allows patients to book and check appointments, pay bills and drug charges to HA, and view medication records.

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