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Leveraging technology for effective NCD management and a healthier Singapore

Andy Sim and Mallari Kulkarni
Andy Sim and Mallari Kulkarni8/12/2022 11:30 AM GMT+08  • 4 min read
Leveraging technology for effective NCD management and a healthier Singapore
An integrated IT system will form the foundation of an innovative, robust and successful national healthcare model. Photo: Unsplash
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It is easy to overlook the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and its prevalence in Singapore is far higher than we think.

Globally, NCDs account for 41 million (or approximately 71%) of annual deaths. A similar trend follows in Singapore, where NCDs remain the leading cause of death – 1 in 4 people aged 30-69 in Singapore have hypertension, and 17 people die from heart disease and stroke every day.

These numbers are the key reason why preventive care – which focuses more on building health as opposed to treating sickness – will be Singapore’s top priority for the next decade.

A national emphasis on healthcare innovation

When it comes to prioritising healthcare, the Singapore government needs no convincing. It announced at Budget 2022 that healthcare will account for the bulk of increases in government social spending by 2030, especially as Singapore’s population ages.

Its new Healthier SG strategy will see the country working towards a model where each resident is assigned to a regular General Practitioner (GP) or polyclinic doctor for all his or her care needs. This is part of a shift away from hospital-centric care to a more sustainable preventive care approach.

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To achieve this, the Singapore government plans to integrate primary care providers, especially GPs, into the public healthcare ecosystem. From a technology standpoint, this will require a revamp of IT systems and infrastructure to enable seamless data sharing across hospitals and community healthcare providers.

We saw an unprecedented acceleration towards digital transformation in healthcare over the past two years and intentions remain strong to further advance digitalisation in this area.

As Singapore Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said: “We live in an era of fascinating medical technology advancement, and we need to embrace them.” Innovation and new technologies will be key to helping family doctors access patients’ medical records and leverage tools to track their patients’ conditions over time, as well as allow them to share the records with other providers in a secure manner.

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Technology enables access and power scalable solutions

Currently, the Ministry of Health has been developing the National Electronic Health Records system to synchronise information and enable access by the patients’ care team across settings. In order to accelerate toward providing comprehensive healthcare in line with the Healthier SG vision, an integrated IT system with interoperability, standardisation, and scalability is critical.

The success of the Digital LifeCare programme in India shows us three ways we can leverage technology to help scale and enable the flow of healthcare data across the Singapore ecosystem:

  1. Drive the power of collaboration through open-source technology
    Adoption of open-source technology is key to developing a robust healthcare ecosystem in the country. It will provide the healthcare sector with flexibility and scalability, and at the same time, bring down the cost of IT infrastructure for healthcare companies.

    More importantly, it will provide access to business intelligence, which results in actionable insights that can play a key role in facilitating consistent patient care. The full potential of technology can only be realised through collaboration between governments, academia, corporates, and social organisations.
  2. Integrate interoperability in advancing the patient care journey
    Manual data collection and the use of portals to report aggregate data on NCDs and other health conditions have often resulted in duplication and poor data quality.

    Interoperability between healthcare systems can be a viable solution to this problem – helping to provide continuity of care through secure storage, thereby enabling healthcare officials to track the patient care journey at each level. As interoperability evolves, AI-based tools can also be introduced at scale to transform both patient-facing clinical processes and internal systems.
  3. Empower our healthcare professionals with the right skills and tools to educate and engage
    There is no denying that the role of technology is set to expand significantly in Singapore, in line with our country’s Smart Nation health initiatives, and the healthcare industry included.

    Healthcare professionals in Singapore are already embracing technology tools to provide reliable knowledge to patients. But to ensure more holistic healthcare management across the country’s population, it is imperative to equip our healthcare workers with the necessary tech skills and knowledge together with the right tools. That way, they can better help patients identify the risk factors, seek help at the right time and enable adherence to treatment. From empowering healthcare workers to building innovative nation-scale level solutions, technology can drive human progress.

    As Singapore strives towards our vision of a “Healthier SG”, investments in the right skill set and right IT infrastructure at the right time are crucial for building an integrated IT system. This will form the foundation of an innovative, robust and successful national healthcare model.

Andy Sim is the vice president and managing director for Singapore at Dell Technologies. Mallari Kulkarni is the head-Digital LifeCare at Dell Technologies

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