When Colin​​ Kaepernick was in fourth grade, he wrote a letter to his future self predicting he would be around 6 foot 4 inches tall, and play professional football for the San Francisco 49ers. In 2011, he signed for the 49ers at exactly 6 foot 4 inches tall.

Unfortunately, healthcare providers don’t have a young Kaepernick’s future seeing ability, but AI is stepping in to help. Singapore uses algorithms to predict risk levels of health conditions such as diabetes, so doctors can intervene early.

Ministers and healthcare leaders discussed the use of predictive health and data sharing at the HealthTech X 2021 event, hosted by IHiS, Singapore’s healthtech agency. They shared how technology plays a key part in looking after Singapore’s health.

Predictive insights with contextual information

Singapore’s health ministry is exploring the use of AI to identify diabetic patients at risk of kidney failure, said Masagos Zulkifli, Second Minister for Health.These predictions will help healthcare providers to intervene early.

Healthcare needs to move beyond hindsight, and now look at predictive insights, he highlighted. 80 per cent of health outcomes can be influenced by social factors, demonstrating the importance of recording socio-economic information and lifestyle indicators.

One indicator is a patient’s records on the national steps programme, Bruce Liang, CEO of IHiS, gave as one example. The programme encourages citizens to stay active and equips them with a wearable device to help them keep track of their daily exercise.

Singapore’s Hospital to Home programme used contextual data and patient’s lifestyle information, he said. The data helped identify which patients might have greater risk of readmission, allowing for early interventions.

Predictive AI has already been used to identify medical conditions from the content of a doctor’s examination notes, and even predict the progression of kidney disease, Ngiam Kee Yuan, Group Chief Technology Officer of the National University Health System, told GovInsider.

The importance of shared data

To deliver effective care across the community, healthcare organisations need to know what treatments a patient has received and by whom, said Liang. Singapore’s National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) system manages these records.

The database allows healthcare providers to see a patient’s treatments across public and private sector care. The users, especially the doctors, can also create customisable dashboards on the system.

Healthcare staff can customise the system to show certain patient information, for example which medications they’re taking and what conditions they have been examined for previously. These dashboards can even raise alerts when a patient has an allergy, Liang continued.

“Digitalisation is necessary but insufficient to support health,” he said. Integration and data-sharing between different digital systems is vital.

An example of efficient integration are vaccination records on Singapore’s HealthHub service. Vaccination data flows through six different systems in real time, instantly updating the nation’s immunisation registry and the health database that GPs use, for example.

The next steps for healthcare providers 

Public healthcare organisations have a very high level of digitisation and contribution to electronic health records. The next step is for private organisations and voluntary welfare organisations “to level up” as well, Liang shared.

Healthcare organisations now have three jobs, he said. They are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, providing their usual healthcare treatments, and making decisions about their future health care business.

What’s clear about the future is that healthcare faces a transition. The system is changing from a model where citizens need to understand how organisations work, to one where healthcare providers need to understand what the citizen needs, he shared.

Healthcare organisations are adopting their own form of foresight to meet Singapore’s future health needs. Cutting edge technologies are making predictive health easier, enabling citizens to receive tomorrow’s healthcare today.