Singapore has launched a new platform to make it easier and faster for healthcare institutions to implement new tech.

Start-ups and SMEs will be able to test their innovations in the CHI Start-up Enterprise Link (CHISEL) sandbox, launched by the Centre for Healthcare Innovation (CHI) last month. Firms will work with a healthcare institution to access real use cases for the trial, so that their solutions can be customised to the local context and population.

“CHISEL enables start-ups and SMEs to more rapidly expose and test-bed near-market solutions to Singapore’s healthcare institutions, bridging and accelerating the last mile from innovation to care delivery,” said Associate Professor Wong Hon Tym, Clinical Director, CHI. We take a look at how CHISEL will accelerate healthtech adoption in Singapore.

Why a sandbox?

The sandbox makes it easier both for hospitals to implement new tech, and for healthtech startups to find suitable beneficiaries. Typically, hospitals in Singapore embark on their own processes to identify tech that will address their unique needs. “These rigorous and often extended journeys are usually performed in silo,” explains Wong.

Startups and SMEs, on the other hand, are on the lookout for hospitals that their products can help. They often need to show how their products will be useful, but that’s tricky without first testing it in a similar real-world environment.

“CHISEL’s sandbox approach links hospitals and their common needs with promising start-ups, so that test-bedding these innovative solutions can be reviewed faster based on their suitability at the exact environment and be adopted rapidly at scale,” Wong explains.

Startups and SMEs will have up to six months to test their innovations in the CHISEL sandbox. This ensures they get enough time to gather evidence that their products are safe for large-scale use.

Leading with three hospitals

CHISEL will run its first round of trials with three of Singapore’s largest public hospitals: Singapore General Hospital, National University Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital. These hospitals will work with startups to testbed their products in the local context.

These three hospitals were chosen for their strong track record of testbedding with startups and SMEs, and are leading hospital reference sites. “Representing the three local healthcare clusters, they collectively have the largest market share and common interest,” according to CHISEL’s press statement.

CHISEL plans to present more innovations to a wider health community in the future. This expands to both public and private healthcare organisations, including intermediate and long-term care, and social care sectors.

Open call

CHI and Temasek Foundation have announced an open call for startups and SMEs to submit their healthtech innovations to the sandbox. This is a “competitive and structured way to invite potential solution providers to participate in solving healthcare challenges,” says Geoffrey Gui Kah Tack, Director of Division of Organisation Planning and Performance, and Head of Future Health System, Singapore General Hospital.

The call will focus on three themes: eldely care, reducing hospital acquired infections, and improving patient care with tech. These were chosen “based on the areas that we recognise as most pressing from the three participating hospitals and are likely to remain challenging in the future,” says Wong, who is also Senior Consultant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Ophthalmology Department.

Up to three firms will be selected to trial their innovations in the sandbox. They will receive funding up to S$1.2 million from Temasek Foundation, which they can spend on manufacturing pilot products, purchasing consumables, or analytics and data management tools.

If the innovations prove promising, the three participating hospitals may consider implementing them. The hospitals will consider how innovative and feasible the product is, and how easily it can be implemented in other healthcare institutions, shares Wong.

CHISEL will give businesses a chance to “test-bed and translate their innovations in healthcare for the local setting and get them to be more widely adopted here”, says Lim Hock Chuan, Chief Executive of Temasek Foundation Ecosperity. “In time, we hope to benefit those afflicted with health issues by reducing their suffering and costs, and to alleviate the burdens faced by their caregivers.”

The world has learned of the immense help tech brings to healthcare in the span of just a few months. Singapore’s new sandbox programme will help to bring more healthtech to where it’s most needed.