Centre launched to test smart solutions for home care for the elderly

ST VIDEO: SUE-ANN TAN

SINGAPORE - A robot that can teach physiotherapy and convey doctors' instructions to a patient might be the face of eldercare in Singapore in the future.

German technology company TUV SUD has developed such smart healthcare solutions that can help the elderly age in place instead of constantly visiting hospitals.

The company officially launched its Smart Elderly Care @ Home Centre on Friday (Oct 27) at its headquarters in Science Park Drive. The centre provides a platform for the company to test the safety, security and reliability of its products.

"Countries like Singapore have limited resources in healthcare so we have to leverage technology to care for the aged in our society," said chairman of the board of TUV SUD management, Dr Axel Stepken.

For example, a robot the company developed has a camera that doctors can use to "see" a patient in his home and check if he is taking the correct medication. Doctors can also use the robot to "talk" to the patient and convey medical advice.

The robot can even teach patients who are recovering how to do physiotherapy. This reduces the need for patients to go to hospitals for rehabilitation exercises, for example, and allows them to receive healthcare in the comfort of their homes, said the company.

TUV SUD has also developed a network of sensors and screens that can monitor the vital signs of patients at home, so that doctors can check on them remotely.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor officiated at the launch of the centre.

"We want to help our elderly age in place, and with peace of mind, surrounded by their loved ones," she said.

Such healthcare technologies come in the wake of the Smart Health Video Consultation and Smart Health TeleRehab. Both systems were launched earlier this year by Integrated Health Information Systems, the health technology agency for the Ministry of Health.

They allow patients to use video consultation or carry out rehabilitation exercises at home, instead of going down to healthcare centres.

However, there might be challenges, such as getting the elderly to accept such technology.

Director of digital service at TUV SUD Andreas Hauser said: "I think it's about explaining the benefits to them and how it can enable them to stay at home to recover. The technology such as sensors is also unobtrusive."

He added that in the next year, the technologies will continue to be developed, before being rolled out to interested healthcare providers and tested in real-life scenarios.

Senior homecare physician Tan Jit Seng said such technology would greatly benefit elderly caregivers of patients. He is also the director of home healthcare service Lotus Eldercare.

"At the moment, caregivers and healthcare providers take down vital information such as blood pressure in notebooks," he said. "With smart systems, this information will be logged into the database and I can view it immediately.

"The robot also helps (patients and caregivers) feel there is always a doctor there if they need it. It takes the strain off our manpower resources as well as the caregivers. I do think this is the future for home care."