Colour zones to cut out confusion for elderly patients

Mr Law Sah, a retired police officer, at Tampines Polyclinic on 5 June 2015. He has been going for check-ups at the polyclinic for 15 years.

As the population greys, hospitals and polyclinics here are making themselves more elderly- friendly.

To cut down on the distance seniors have to walk, for instance, healthcare institutions are locating various services on the same floor. A patient will no longer have a long trudge between getting a diagnosis and going for rehabilitation or collecting medicine from the pharmacy.

Colour coding is used to help patients who cannot read signs or have difficulty finding their way around hospital walkways.

Walls, doors, chairs and signs within a certain zone share the same colour, so the patient can orientate himself more easily.

"We are taking a proactive approach to ensure that our facilities and buildings are ready to meet the needs of Singapore's ageing population," said SingHealth group chief executive Ivy Ng.

SingHealth, the largest public healthcare provider here, saw more than a million elderly patient visits last year.

This accounted for over one in four of all visits that year, up from 22 per cent five years ago.

Other hospitals are also seeing more elderly patients.

The number of those above 65 has grown by 15 per cent over the last decade, to make up 60 per cent of total number of patients at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

Over at Changi General Hospital (CGH), the proportion of elderly among those who required admission rose to 48 per cent last year, from 41 per cent in 2010.

Common grouses among older patients about poor design in healthcare institutions range from confusing signs and poor layout to tight corners for wheelchairs.

Retired police officer Law Sah, 75, said of Tampines Polyclinic, where he had been going for check-ups for 15 years: "There were few directional signs and they were inconspicuous.

"I had to ask nurses or whoever was around how to get to different sections."

Since a revamp last year, he now heads to the bluezone for registration, then to the orange zone to see the doctor.

He collects his medicine at the green zone and pays at the pink zone.

Seven SingHealth polyclinics have implemented these standard colour codes, and three others will do so by 2017.

Another important move has been to cluster all the various services a patient needs close together.

TTSH is shifting its musculoskeletal clinics - which treat conditions of muscles, joints and bones - to the same floor as physiotherapy and other therapy services. Most of its clinics already have their own diagnostic, rehabilitative and pharmacy services close by.

Last year, the Singapore General Hospital merged three clinics at its basement and combined its various registration counters and waiting areas into one integrated centre dealing with digestive and liver diseases.

At TTSH, one nurse station is based outside each cubicle of five beds so that the patients can be seen easily. This has been done for 22 out of 33 wards.

CGHhas been redesigning its clinics to create pockets of smaller waiting areas. Said a CGH spokesman: "With waiting areas nearer to the consultation rooms, it reduces the time taken for patients to walk to the rooms."


This article was first published on Jube 8, 2015.
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