2020 has been a tumultuous year – but it has also been a year of brilliant CovTech innovations. Hospitals have innovated to use data to create heatmaps of at-risk staff and ensure a continuous supply of personal protective equipment and Covid-19 medication.

“Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of data analytics,” says Priyanka Grover, Head of Analytics at SingHealth’s Office for Insights & Analytics. “Data-driven approaches can help us derive the most appropriate decisions quickly, and make relevant changes as more data becomes available.”

The unit is spearheading SingHealth’s analytics efforts, and has used data to optimise operations during the pandemic. GovInsider spoke to Grover to find out more about her team’s efforts to fight Covid-19 with data.

Agility during the pandemic

The OIA worked closely with SingHealth’s Covid-19 command centre to automate real-time dashboards, says Grover. These dashboards helped to analyse the hourly clinical load at the hospitals’ emergency medicine departments and fever screening areas.

They also monitored Covid-19 bed occupancy rates, employee workload, planned surgeries, and appointments at SingHealth’s specialist outpatient clinics.

Grover’s team also coordinated cluster-level projects that used data analytics to optimise surgical workload and the utilisation of surgical wards during Singapore’s circuit breaker period, she says.

SingHealth has developed a common storage of data, enabling it to share clinical data across its 13 institutions. “We developed an enterprise data lake for SingHealth to ensure a single, accurate source of data for all our healthcare users,” Tan said.

Enhancing data capabilities

The pandemic has made Grover’s team realise the need to be more agile and responsive, she says. “Insights can be perishable, and our team learnt the importance of obtaining and providing data in a timely manner.”

With the pandemic slowly stabilising in Singapore, Grover’s team is now working on enabling real-time analytics. “This is to ensure that we are well-prepared should Singapore have another wave of Covid-19 infections, or for other pandemics in the future.”

The OIA is also working to deploy AI models across the SingHealth group of hospitals, she says. These models would help with risk profiling of surgical patients, and optimise patient flow in the accident & emergency department.

Grover’s team sees “a need for stringent guidelines”, such as ethics in the use of AI, as they enhance SingHealth’s data capabilities. Data security and governance will also be key to protect sensitive patient data, she adds.

Data analytics training

Photos were taken before the issuance of government advisories on Covid-19.

“There tends to be a lack of education and awareness about the benefits of adopting the use of analytics, and more needs to be done to help users understand it in order for us to enhance our work with analytics,” Grover says.

The OIA is initiating analytics training and awareness programmes to ensure staff understand the capabilities and limitations of analytics across SingHealth, she adds. Her team also works with users on projects to ensure that every engagement is a learning journey for the project team.

The pandemic has revealed the urgent need for data in healthcare. SingHealth is enhancing its data analytics capabilities and training its people to be ready for the future of healthcare.

Image of Grover’s team from SingHealth