Radical thinking needed to improve healthcare

To make health the new wealth, we need to reduce costs and increase innovation ("Can 'health' be the new wealth for Singapore?"; March 1).

The biggest costs in healthcare are professionals and the buildings they are in. No professional will volunteer to earn less, so they have to work in more productive ways. But, who said we needed buildings?

As a consultant for a mobile dental company in the United States, I serve children from lower socio-economic groups, the elderly in nursing homes, and the military.

In Singapore, the house-bound silver generation could have dentistry provided in this manner.

Initial investment is channelled to equipment and is a fraction of the conventional set-up cost.

No money is wasted on creating infrastructure or maintaining buildings 168 hours a week, while healthcare professionals typically work only 40 hours. Add screening services to their duties and the value delivered can become huge.

Data collected from health screening can assist the Government in planning and developing services against the problems of serving the house-bound population.

Commercial companies employing healthcare professions generally do not produce more cost-effective or consistently better results, so governments need to incentivise change.

Singapore has every reason to succeed in making health the new wealth. The best resource it has is its efficient government machine, where decisions seem to be effectively implemented. Here are some areas it could look into.

- Educate the citizens to be responsible for their own health. This is an essential preventive tool.

- Control the amount of monosodium glutamate, sugar and salt in food and drink products. In Britain, obesity is now the No. 1 health challenge.

- Fast-track the development of tele-consultations with less expensive, overseas-based doctors.

Let us see the Committee on the Future Economy engage in swift and radical thinking, propelling Singapore into one of the leading lights in healthcare.

Amarjit Gill (Dr)