Question No. 803
To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether there are efforts for telemedicine and mobile medical services to tackle mental health issues remotely, in particular among the elderly; and (b) whether there has been any evaluation in the last one year on how willing and able are our seniors to use such digital services when it comes to their health.
Public Healthcare Institutions (PHIs) currently provide video consultation services for the management and follow up of mental health conditions in suitable patients, including seniors. Since 9 October 2020, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has also introduced a time-limited extension of Community Heath Assist Scheme (CHAS) Chronic subsidies and Medisave usage for video consultations carried out for all chronic conditions under the Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP), including mental health conditions such as anxiety and major depression.
2. Seniors with stable mental health conditions and their caregivers can be supported at home by the community intervention teams. These community intervention teams are mobile teams that provide allied-health services such as psychotherapy and counselling. They also provide online counselling and psychotherapy sessions, where needed.
3. Seniors who face mental distress, for example who feel lonely, anxious or upset by problems, can reach out to The Seniors Helpline, which provides tele-befriending and tele-counselling services to seniors. In addition, CareLine, which is a 24/7 call centre, provides emergency response and social support services for isolated and vulnerable seniors.
4. As of end October 2020, over 24,000 patients, including seniors, have made use of video consultation conducted by PHIs. CareLine also provided social support to around 10,000 seniors as at December 2020. We have also observed more seniors utilising tele-befriending and tele-counselling services. For example, there were some 8,700 calls made to The Senior’s Helpline in FY2019, up from about 5,600 calls in FY2018. MOH will continue to promote the use of digital and tele- solutions to enable patients to access mental wellness services in a convenient and safe manner.