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Central Appointment and Referral System to Benefit Patients and Healthcare Service Providers in Singapore

Patients in Singapore can now select their preferred specialist outpatient appointment date with hospital specialists and enjoy on-the-spot confirmation of their appointment following the launch of a Central Appointment and Referral ...

Singapore, 27 October 1998 | For Immediate Release

Patients in Singapore can now select their preferred specialist outpatient appointment date with hospital specialists and enjoy on-the-spot confirmation of their appointment following the launch of a Central Appointment and Referral System (CARES).

CARES was first conceptualised by the National Computer Board (NCB) to determine the feasibility of making appointments electronically via the Internet and demonstrate the use of information technology (IT) in an inter-enterprise setting between primary and secondary care healthcare providers. NCB co-funded the development of CARES, which has since been developed and is being operated by Singapore Network Services Pte Ltd (SNS).

Currently, general practitioner (GP) clinics and polyclinics make appointment bookings with hospitals' Specialist Outpatient Clinic (SOC) via the telephone or the facsimile. Now, CARES will enable them to electronically search a 24-hour online directory of specialists and book specialist outpatient appointments with participating hospitals via the Internet, using standard browsers such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.

As such, the whole appointment booking process is streamlined. Within two minutes, a booking can be made and any change, cancellation and enquiry can be made easily without the need to wait for the person at the other end of the telephone to respond.

CARES will interface with participating hospitals' internal appointment booking systems (ABS) using standards such as TCP/IP and *HL7 to facilitate online bookings. For the hospitals' Specialist Outpatient Clinics (SOC) appointment counters, this system will significantly reduce telephone enquiries, making it possible to redeploy counter staff to patient care.

In addition, CARES will also significantly enhance the communication between hospitals and the polyclinics and GPs. Mrs Pearleen Chan, Managing Director of SNS, said: "CARES builds the link between primary care and secondary/tertiary care providers for better patient care. Not only will patients, GP clinics and polyclinics benefit from faster appointment booking over the Internet, SOCs will also be relieved of the manual and repetitious administrative tasks of handling phone enquiries for appointments."

A pilot group of users, comprising the National University Hospital (NUH), Bukit Merah, Bukit Batok, Woodlands, Clementi and Jurong Polyclinics, and more than 20 GP clinics are currently using CARES.

Mr Foo Yin Kee, Director (Information Services) of NUH said: "NUH is constantly exploring opportunities to improve our healthcare services through E-Commerce. Our participation in CARES represents one such initiative."

Dr. Tan Tze Lee of The Edinburgh Clinic, a GP clinic who is among the pilot group of users, commented: "We were very eager to participate in the CARES' pilot project as we saw endless opportunities for improving patient care and enhancing the relationship between our clinic and the hospital physicians."

The Family Health Services of the Ministry of Health (MOH) is responsible for all polyclinics in Singapore. Its Director, Dr. Shanta Emmanuel, said: "By providing on-the-spot appointment bookings with hospitals' SOCs, CARES would expedite the process of referring polyclinic patients to hospital specialists, benefiting our patients at the same time."

After the pilot launch, CARES will subsequently be offered to all government and restructured hospitals, private hospitals, polyclinics and GP clinics islandwide.

Said Ms Tan Swee Hua, Director, Healthcare Cluster of NCB: "CARES presents another initiative by the healthcare sector to leverage on IT to achieve an integrated healthcare community. CARES will enhance the communications of the care providers, who are providing care to patients across the continuum of care. With CARES as the platform, patient care can be further enhanced by allowing pertinent patient information to be exchanged via the system."

The usage of CARES will be provided free to GP clinics and polyclinics in Singapore upon registration with SNS. For those interested in using CARES, please contact Mr Alex Cheah at 871 6291 or Mr Patrick Ho at 871 6287. A registration form can also be obtained from the CARES' home page at

NCB, SNS, NUH and MOH will launch CARES on October 27, 1998. Targeted at GP clinics, polyclinics and hospitals, this launch will demonstrate the benefits of the system to these healthcare service providers.

* HL7 is the de-facto messaging standard for inter-healthcare systems communication.

Benefits of CARES
GP clinics, Polyclinics - Real-time, online booking for faster confirmation of specialist outpatient appointments
- Hassle-free changing, cancelling or making enquiries on previous appointments made
Patients - Selection of a preferred appointment date with hospital specialists 
- On-the spot confirmation of appointment
Specialist Outpatient Clinics - Reduction in telephone enquiries
- Reduction of counter staff to attend to enquiries
- Improvement in communication between hospitals, polyclinics and GPs