S'pore telehealth innovations to combat ageing population

SINGAPORE - Researchers from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have developed telehealth innovations which can potentially address the healthcare challenges of an ageing Singapore.

According to A*STAR, technology holds the key to relieving the strain on our healthcare system and increasing the quality of patient care.

This is especially crucial given Singapore's rapid population growth, ageing population and explosion in chronic diseases.

The challenge is to provide affordable patient care in Singapore and the use of telehealth will address this, A*STAR said.

For example, one of the technologies A*STAR has developed is a telemonitoring equipment which monitors the vital signs in patients remotely.

It uses a reliable and energy efficient Wireless Body Sensor Network (WBSN) platform to allow doctors to continuously keep tabs on aged patients while affording them the convenience of staying at home.

The doctors can also spot worrying changes and deal with problems as soon as they arise, rather than to wait for a clinic visit.

Another technology is the screening for eye diseases with only an image of the retina.

The innovation has the added advantage of not requiring an eye specialist to use the equipment or analyse the data. Hence, they can be deployed to various front-line screening places such as neighbourhood opticians or polyclinics.

There's also the iStrokeSuite technology, which can potentially reduce delays of stroke treatment which must be delivered to stroke patients within three hours from the onset of symptoms.

Stroke is Singapore's fourth leading cause of death and is among the top 10 causes of hospitalisation.

The technology automatically compiles the patient's electronic medical record and preliminary findings into a report, which is then sent to the mobile devices of clinicians.

By allowing clinicians to access and analyse the clinical data on their mobile devices, they are in a better position to plan treatment as soon possible.

"The potential for technology to address problems in healthcare is immense," said Dr Tan Sze Wee, programme director of the Healthcare and Lifestyle Programme Office at A*STAR.

"Telehealth innovations will be the future of healthcare as it enables effective, in-person, multidisciplinary collaboration between all parties involved in a patient's care," he said.

The full suite of technologies will be showcased at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Asia Pacific Conference 2012 to be held from Sept 17 to 19.