New society a boost for patient aftercare

SINGAPORE - They make phone calls and visit the homes of patients discharged from hospital, helping them with matters from financial aid to sorting out medication.

This group of professionals, called case managers, will, for the first time, be able to join a society that aims to guide them to do a better job.

The Case Management Society of Singapore, launched yesterday at a community care forum, has already drawn 142 people.

Open also to health and social professionals interested in the field, it will organise forums and workshops to create a higher and more consistent standard of care.

The Agency of Integrated Care (AIC) - under the Ministry of Health - will be supporting the society in its operations.

Its president Koh Sai Fong, from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and one of the first case managers in Singapore back in 2000, said the profession has grown in numbers.

There are now more than 200 case managers, a far cry from the 30-odd about a decade ago. They are based at hospitals, polyclinics, family service centres and community facilities like day rehabilitation centres.

They often guide family members on how to look after the patient at home and ensure patients continue to take their medicine and exercise regularly.

Ms Koh, who is TTSH's deputy director of operations (community), noted that the role of case managers has become more vital as the emphasis moves from hospital-based care to community care as the population ages.

"Case managers in the community have to help patients navigate the resources they need so they don't have to keep rushing back to the hospital," she said.

One community case manager is AIC's Ms May Chan, who said new hires will be able to hit the ground running with better guidance from the new society.

"They won't have to grope around, like the way we did in the past," she added. "When I first started, I didn't know what case management was about."

She recalled how she was at a loss during her very first home visit when she lifted the bed covers of a patient and saw bedbugs crawling all over the mattress.

"We have to look at the person's illness, his ability to cope and find a way to marry the two," she said. "It's not so easy."

The initiative is an example of how health and social needs of patients can be better integrated, noted Permanent Secretary for Health Tan Ching Yee.

"For the most complex cases, nothing beats the human touch," said Mrs Tan, the guest of honour at the launch at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel yesterday.

"Case management is this human touch that can help our seniors realise the benefits of person-centred care."

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