Health Minister: Developed countries in Asia must adopt health-care technologies

Developed Asian countries facing an ageing population, such as Singapore, need to find new ways to meet the rising health-care needs of their seniors, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Developed Asian countries facing an ageing population, such as Singapore, need to find new ways to meet the rising health-care needs of their seniors, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Developed Asian countries facing an ageing population need to find new ways to meet the rising health-care needs of their seniors to guard against health-care inflation, warned Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

Opening the Healthcare in Asia 2014 organised by the Economist magazine on Thursday, he said: "These societies will need to adopt health-care technologies in a big way, and fundamentally re-think the role of technology and human contact in the delivery of health care and social care."

Instead of simply getting more health-care workers to look after larger groups of patients, he said it should switch to supporting patients "to administer care themselves" where it is safe to do so.

One example he gave was a self-dialysis programme in Sweden. Nurses have helped 60 per cent of their patients to "operate the dialysis machine, interpret lab values, and document their own care on a report form themselves."

As a result, not only did it reduce the cost, it also increased compliance and reduced complications, he said.

He also spoke of how Singapore will be introducing universal medical insurance coverage, with help for those in the middle and lower income groups.

As the country moves towards that, he said it has to ensure that it remains sustainable.

"We must guard against overconsumption as we and our children will eventually bear the cost," he said. "The challenge is callibrating it right."

The one-and-a-half day conference at the Swissotel Merchant Court brings together top health-care policymakers from the region, including Thailand's Minister of Public Health Mr Pradit Sintavanarong who will speak on "Navigating the challenges of universal health care" on Friday.