Minister lauds ways IT benefits patients

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong
PHOTO: Minister lauds ways IT benefits patients

SINGAPORE - When outdated technology is used, doctors can waste on average 46 minutes every day, time that can be better spent on treating patients.

But when the right artificial intelligence is used, doctors can find the correct treatments faster and reduce unnecessary patient visits, as well as get about 50 per cent improvement in the outcome at half the cost.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday gave these nuggets of information, distilled from two studies in the US, to underline the significant benefits new technology brings to health care.

Pointing to Singapore's IT masterplan, he said its emphasis on the use of analytics "allows our health-care services to be more targeted".

An example is disease prevention programmes, which when provided to people with a chronic medical condition, could stave off even worse problems such as blindness, amputation of a limb or kidney transplants in diabetic patients.

Mr Gan's focus on the importance of technology befits the occasion - he was opening a four-day conference and exhibition on the latest in health-care technology.

He said: "IT holds the promise of helping us better meet the needs of an ageing population, an issue Singapore as well as other health-care systems around the world are grappling with."

The event at Marina Bay Sands, called the HIMSS AsiaPac14 Digital Healthcare Week, has drawn about 1,400 delegates from 30 countries.

Mr Gan, referring to a skit at the opening ceremony by the Singapore Nurses Association, cited how technology can be a boon for stroke patients.

The first three to six months of rehabilitation are "extremely critical" in helping these patients recover much of their abilities. But many cannot make it to regular rehabilitation after their discharge, either because there is no one to take them for therapy or the cost is beyond their means.

In their skit, the nurses showed how supervised tele-rehabilitation could be done at home, with results monitored by the service provider.

Mr Gan said such a scheme "translates into time and cost savings for patients, not to mention increased productivity for allied health professionals".

Turning to Singapore's National Electronic Health Record, launched in 2011, Mr Gan said it can be accessed in more than 280 institutions by over 14,000 doctors, including 230 general practitioners.

With it, doctors in different hospitals treating the same patient can obtain online his complete medical and care history.

He said: "No matter which health-care institution they visit, their health information will be made available across the various institutions, thus ensuring continuity of care."

But despite the strong focus on technology, Mr Gan gave the assurance that people will continue to remain "at the centre" of the health-care system.

This article was first published on Sep 16, 2014.
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