Julius Caesar famously said “it’s all Greek to me”. Was he just talking about medical information? It seems like only doctors can explain the complicated jargon and numbers.

One of Singapore’s major public healthcare groups is redesigning services for patients to understand their medical information and get access to healthcare at all times. The innovation comes at a time when healthcare needs are changing by the minute. “When we design healthcare technologies, our underlying principle is always to place the patient’s needs above all else”, says Benedict Tan, Group Chief Digital Strategy Officer at SingHealth.

GovInsider spoke with Tan to understand SingHealth’s latest innovations to improve the patient experience.

Remote care apps

Tan highlights three services that SingHealth has redesigned around patients’ needs and improved remote care.

First, patients in public hospitals can access their medical information and recovery schedule from the MyCare app at their bedside. This has been “especially useful in engaging and communicating with COVID-19 patients”, says Tan. Isolated patients can check their vitals, medication, test results and communicate with hospital staff, while maintaining physical distances.

The second innovation is digital medical certificates, ensuring that doctors’ letters are not misplaced or forged. “The switch from paper to digital MCs offers patients greater convenience, streamlines clinical and administrative workflows, and is environmentally-friendly,” adds Tan.

And finally, SingHealth has pulled services to manage medical appointments and payments into an app, and is piloting two new services on this platform this year. Patients can save documents like prescriptions, and record voice instructions from doctors and nurses. Doctors can assign articles and videos for diabetic patients to better understand their health.

Wearables and IoT

Another focus in SingHealth’s digital vision is wearables and IoT. “The current COVID-19 pandemic has spurred us to look into increasing our range of telehealth services for patients,” Tan says. They are looking at video consultations, remote monitoring and tele-radiology.

Hospitals are trialling sensors that can alert staff if patients’ vital signs go beyond the normal range, he says. They continuously monitor vitals like heart rates, respiration and temperature. SingHealth wants to work with companies to make more affordable devices for remote monitoring and consultations. “We imagine a future where every home has a suite of such devices for use.”

These devices must be integrated with older systems to ensure that data flows across departments. Digital platforms must be built such that hospitals can incorporate increasingly more sophisticated devices and quickly adopt newer tech. “We adopt an ‘agile’ approach to digital transformation so that we are more responsive to changing demands and technology in a rapidly developing digital world,” Tan says.

The importance of data

Data is critical to SingHealth’s vision for patient-centric services. “We see data as a strategic asset,” Tan says, allowing the hospitals to plan clinical services and improve operations.

It uses analytics to predict, for instance, whether a patient is likely to miss an appointment, or whether they are at risk of developing acute symptoms. And it is using artificial intelligence and robotic process automation (RPA) to make patient support and clinical services more efficient.

None of these are possible without common storage of data. “We developed an enterprise data lake for SingHealth to ensure a single, accurate source of data for all our healthcare users,” he adds. Electronic medical records allow SingHealth to share clinical data across its 13 institutions.

SingHealth’s vision points to a future where people are able to better understand their health and get timely care no matter where they are. We daresay medical information might look less like Greek.

Image by Benedict Tan