Collaborative platform for healthcare sector launched

CHART - or the Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology - was on Thursday officially opened by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Changi General Hospital (CGH). Photo: Lianhe Zaobao

SINGAPORE - CHART - or the Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology - was on Thursday officially opened by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Changi General Hospital (CGH).

Spearheaded by CGH and supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board, Chart is believed to be the first-of-its-kind collaborative platform here that will enable healthcare professionals to work closely with academia, industry and research institutions to develop a full range of healthcare solutions leveraging robotics and assistive technologies.

These solutions will be in five key domains: developing virtual hospitals; transforming aged care; optimising rehabilitation; automating processes; and enhancing medical training.

Said Dr Tan at the launch: "Chart will push the boundaries in the use of robotics in what has traditionally been seen as a high touch service sector . . . and contribute to Singapore's vision of being a Smart Nation. This is a significant national effort, and one in which I am very encouraged to see the healthcare sector take the lead."

Sited at CGH, Chart comes with a Design Lab - for ideation and collaboration - and a Living Lab comprising mock-up wards, clinics and minor surgery rooms for prototyping. On a national level, Chart will serve as a shared platform to engage various healthcare clusters and aged-care providers to design new healthcare solutions. It will also become a launchpad for the National Robotics Programme, a multi-agency, sector-agnostic initiative that manages the end-to-end development of robotics technologies.

Among CGH's partners for Chart are Hope Technik, a homegrown engineering firm whose SESTO Automated Guided Vehicles will assist hospital staff in moving things; and the Nanyang Technological University, whose humanoid robots can entertain patients who are waiting for their appointments, and even serve as doctor assistants.

Michael Leong, managing director of Hope Technik, told BT: "We see Chart as a unique opportunity to collaborate extensively and co-develop future technologies in the medical field. There is now new demand from hospitals for the ad-hoc delivery - as opposed to just scheduled delivery - of materials by automated guided vehicles (AGVs)."

Moreover, several hospitals here that are already equipped with AGVs - mostly purchased from Europe and the US - are due to upgrade or replace their systems soon, giving Hope Technik the opportunity to offer its range of mobile robots, said Mr Leong.

Selina Seah, assistant chief executive at CGH and director of Chart, added: "The automation of processes, especially those involving manual labour, is important as not only are our patients ageing, our workforce is too - while day-to-day operations involving the movement of equipment such as case notes and surgical instruments need to continue reliably. In addition, transferring heavy items within an expanding hospital campus increases occupational health risks."

Hope Technik engineers are working closely with CGH staff to co-design and prototype solutions that are "age-friendly" and easy to operate, said Ms Seah.

On Thursday, Dr Tan also officiated the opening of The Integrated Building (IB) at CGH, a 280-bed patient rehabilitation centre operated by CGH and St Andrew's Community Hospital. "The IB is designed to help patients regain their functions at a faster rate. This is especially important for older patients admitted for acute medical conditions, as well as patients recovering from stroke or traumatic brain injury," he said.

This article was first published on July 24, 2015.
Get The Business Times for more stories.