How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

The MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation (MOHT) was set up in 2018 to drive the reshaping of our health system to, amongst other aims, meet the evolving needs of our aging population, many of whom may have chronic conditions.

We work closely with partners to design and pilot new initiatives, and develop critical enablers of scaling such as technology, data analytics, and finance and incentive redesign, to drive fundamental changes in the way we promote health and deliver care.

Joining MOHT gave me the opportunity to work on a telehealth initiative, Primary Tech Enhanced Care (PTEC). The programme aims to enable patients to effectively self-manage their chronic disease with simple to use technologies and the support of their care team.

As the project manager, I worked closely with the care providers and developers to create a solution that would be easy to use and affordable for both patients and for care providers.

For the patients, the primary focus was to create a solution that was easy to use across different ages and backgrounds. It was also important that the solution gave patients the confidence to manage their condition at home without visiting the polyclinic. To do so the team put together a solution which included the following:

  1. A Bluetooth connected device with which patients can automatically share their readings to the polyclinic
  2. A mobile application where patients can access materials and track their progress of their condition
  3. An automated SMS system managed by a chatbot which provides timely advice and guidance to patients

With the long-term goal of scaling the programme across the public healthcare institutions, it was also essential that the solution could be incorporated easily into the healthcare institutions responses with the minimal changes to the existing manpower requirements. With that aim the team developed the following tools to augment and support the care team for this new mode of care:

  1. A dashboard, supported by backend analytics, was developed to manage the patients’ home monitoring data. Care teams would be alerted when their intervention was required. To ensure no compromise in quality of care, the dashboard was designed with clinicians based on Singapore’s clinical practice guidelines
  2. The chatbot logic and responses were also co-developed with the care team, to help manage simpler queries from the patients

Our first pilot with Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic, targeted at hypertension patients, showed greater improvement in blood pressure control for patients enrolled into the programme.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?

With the success of the PTEC Hypertension pilot at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic, I had the opportunity to work with a group of colleagues and partners to scale the pilot to all public primary care institutions. This is the first telehealth project in Singapore to be scaled across all public primary care institutions (polyclinics). We hope this telehealth solution would be a foundation for future telehealth initiatives.

The telehealth solution includes:

  1. A financing model that would work for both the healthcare system, care providers and patients
  2. Technology platform with robust architecture that could be used for future telehealth initiatives
  3. Operations and training frameworks which could be referenced for future telehealth initiatives

Throughout the process, I was excited to see the active participation of the clinical team, especially in the development of the system, through their feedback and suggestions. I believe the greater impact is the community which we are building within the healthcare systems that become advocates of technology innovation. This would be a great step forward for digital transformation within our public health systems.

What is one unexpected learning from 2020? 

During the pandemic, there was a rush to better understand the virus so that our society could be educated on the best way to care for themselves. There were updates on how the virus was transmitted and how people could better protect themselves through social distancing and wearing masks. It really showed the importance of individuals taking ownership of their actions and having the necessary and accurate information to do so. There were tools, like the Singapore Covid-19 Symptom Checker, created to help individuals make informed decisions on when they should seek medical help. More could be done for other health conditions as well.

In 2020, there were a number of health scares in my family and I, and I was fortunate to have some medical knowledge due to my line of work, and colleagues whom I could seek advice from, so that we knew enough to identify the symptoms early and seek help.

It would be great if this could be done on a larger scale, so people are able to seek help early, and on a more proactive front, to keep themselves healthy and prevent disease.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?

I hope to be able to use data driven approaches to design and implement solutions.

There is a wealth of information in different pockets of the healthcare system, and especially with telehealth we would be able to better understand users and gauge how to best serve them.

It is common in the private sector to segment users and engage them through target marketing. These principles could be applied to public healthcare to better engage and help patients achieve better health outcomes.

What are your priorities for 2021?

The scaling of PTEC is still in the early stages. The priorities for 2021 would be to continually identify and grow the community of advocates as we implement the programme in more polyclinics.

It would also be especially important to continually review and study the usage of the solution, so it could continually improve and remain relevant in a fast-growing technology space.

What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in GovTech? 

Pay attention to the larger society in which the tech would be used.

In this era of the fourth industrial revolution, there are plenty of exciting career opportunities in technology, where you could be part of the process of designing and creating a product.

Joining the public service, however, would require you to have a broader understanding of how technology fits into the bigger ecosystem of our society. More often than not, technology is an enabler that helps achieve a bigger issue or policy change.

In relation to my work, creating a telehealth product or service is that enabler to help achieve the goal of meeting the needs of a rapidly aging population that requires a different mode of care given our limited workforce. The bigger part of the work is figuring out how this would remain sustainable in terms of cost and manpower in our existing healthcare system as well as affordability and usability for the population across socioeconomic status.

Pursuing a career in this field could give you the opportunity to see how technology could be used to shape our society.

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