Health minister wants healthcare sector to be more innovative

Singapore’s Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan wants the healthcare sector to step up on IT advancements, lamenting that progress has been slow.

If embraced effectively, he said the Internet could make healthcare “better and also cheaper”.

Nevertheless, there is progress, he said in his latest blog.

Mr Khaw cited the use of tele-radiology, a process where X-rays are taken and sent via the Internet to a radiologist, to be read and reported within an hour.

He said this addresses the shortage of radiologists stationed at Singapore’s polyclinics.

Mr Khaw added: “There are also not enough X-rays to be read. As a result, patients who need X-ray will have their X-ray taken at the polyclinic, and then asked to come back for another visit while the X-rays are sent to the hospital radiologists to be reported upon.

“This means two polyclinic visits, time wasted, and unnecessary anxiety, not knowing how serious the illness may be. With tele-radiology, the polyclinic doctor can then immediately decide on the treatment plan.

“Moreover, with globalisation, the simple X-rays are actually read by radiologists in India, saving us and the patients’ money, while freeing our radiologists to work on the more complicated scans.”

Mr Khaw also observed another online innovation being effectively used – tele-ophthalmology.

Similar to tele-radiology, the process allows ophthalmologists to “look into” the eyes and retina of patients, without having to be physically present.

The health minister said: “We do not have enough ophthalmologists to be deployed in the polyclinics, but we can have optometrists there to prepare the images which can then be transmitted via the Internet to the hospital ophthalmologists.

“The result is that the patients do not have to make a trip to the hospital, saving them time and money. They told me that tele-ophthalmology has reduced referrals by the polyclinic to hospital ophthalmologists by half.”

Mr Khaw said tele-ophthalmology is a routine service in Hougang Polyclinic and will be extended to other polyclinics soon.


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