Hospitals send SMS updates on patients to relatives

NATIONAL sepak takraw team coach Salleh Nanang, 42, was taken aback when amid work, he received a short text message on his mobile phone – from his mother’s doctor. 

It told him that Maimon Jonit, 61, was doing better at the medical intensive care unit in National University Hospital (NUH), where she had been admitted with breathing difficulties and heart problems. 

Said Salleh of the service introduced last month: “It’s a very good idea, because it lets us know how my mother is doing when we’re not around. So if her condition is getting worse, I’d rush to see her, but if she is fine, then I knew it’s okay if I go a bit later.” 

It’s a daily SMS update service the medical intensive care unit has named Mercury, after the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology. 

After their morning rounds, the doctors will compose and send an SMS to the patient’s designated contact relative, to inform them on the patient’s condition, how he or she was responding to treatment and what tests were scheduled later in the day, if any. 

The unit’s director, Associate Professor Lee Kang Hoe, who came up with the idea, said: “We usually talk to patients” family members after our morning rounds, but this requires them to be physically present, and not everyone can make it at the time every day. 

“This is meant to change the existing paradigm to one where we proactively seek the patients” family out on a regular basis and reassure them.” 

But it will not replace face-to-face communication between the doctors and the patient’s family members. 

This latest use of SMS by public hospitals is on top of the reminders NUH and Tan Tock Seng Hospital send by mobile phones to outpatients on their medical appointments three days before the date. 

Patients can also leave their cellphone number at NUH’s pharmacies to be informed when their medication is ready. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network 

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