New online platform to offer home-care services for the elderly

New online platform to offer home-care services for the elderly
TODAY file photo
Published: 4:00 AM, May 11, 2017

SINGAPORE — Plans are afoot to launch a national online marketplace for eldercare services and products later this year, industry players told TODAY.

The initiative will come on the back of national platforms for tele-consulting and tele-rehabilitation, which were rolled out in recent weeks.

Voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) are currently working with Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS) — the information technology arm of the Ministry of Health — to implement the platform. Hospitals and other partners will also be on board, with the marketplace potentially open to private providers as well.

When launched, the online marketplace will offer home-care services for the elderly or their caregivers. Products and services will include medical supplies, nursing and therapist services, as well as ambulance services.

TODAY understands that the marketplace will be progressively rolled out, with the “Match A Nurse” service and medical supplies available for a start. The service, which was announced last year, matches discharged patients who need follow-up care such as wound dressing to nurses who provide that service.

With an ageing population and an impetus towards more community- and home-based care, industry players noted the need for such an online marketplace. They pointed out that the eldercare sector is too fragmented, with VWOs offering services in a siloed manner. They also called for financial assistance schemes to be integrated with the upcoming platform. Comprehensive pricing information, which is currently lacking, should also be provided, they said.

NTUC Eldercare was among those consulted by IHiS late last year.

Its general manager, Lim Sia Hoe, said: “Currently, too many providers are doing too many things, there is too much replication. It is also very siloed, some providers are doing only one service, such as only transport, medical supplies, or groceries.”

There are also too many online apps and services by private providers, with limited adoption among consumers, she said. She stressed that the new portal has to be very targeted, and kept simple and user-friendly.

“We need to know who we are marketing this platform to — the caregivers or the elderly themselves. If it is the elderly, then they need everything curated for them,” she said.

“Let’s say, for an 85-year-old, what are the likely items he will need daily? And there will be challenges for the elderly with no smartphones or computers — how will they order?”

Ms Janice Chia, founder of consultancy Ageing Asia, called for transparent pricing of goods and services on the portal — a practice that is lacking for similar marketplaces in other countries.

“Right now, the typical consumer does not really know how much home-care services cost, from one provider to another. So what makes them choose one VWO over another? This is where pricing could guide them,” she said.

Peacehaven Nursing Home executive director Low Mui Lang reiterated that financial schemes should be integrated into the portal, so that patients do not have to apply for them separately.

Currently, VWOs have to apply for the Senior Mobility Fund on patients’ behalf before they order supplies, and subsequently claim for them. This portal represents an opportunity to have a one-stop shop where patients can have everything done, from ordering to claims for financial assistance, Ms Low said.

Ms Chia added: “If done correctly, this marketplace can really support the case for ageing in Singapore, because all the options will be laid out clearly, from rehabilitation services to medical supplies.”