Making life easier for patients at home

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan (left) and HDB CEO Cheong Koon Hean watching a demonstration of a device that can monitor an elderly resident in bed.
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan (left) and HDB CEO Cheong Koon Hean watching a demonstration of a device that can monitor an elderly resident in bed.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Patients who require regular medical attention may be able to cut down on their trips to the hospital or clinic in future, when Housing Board flats are equipped with smart personal technologies.

These include wearable motion sensors that enable rehabilitation exercises to be done at home via video conferencing. Such "tele-health" technologies also allow caregivers to guide and monitor patients remotely.

Since the start of this year, smart prototypes have been put to the test in nine mock-up flats at HDB's Centre of Building Research in Woodlands. Seventeen companies and consortiums were shortlisted to set up trials of their smart software and hardware there.

These solutions will eventually be rolled out to actual flats in existing housing estates for further testing, the HDB said yesterday.

Trials have also been conducted for technologies that aid homeowners to manage their utilities and to monitor their elderly relatives. For instance, power management systems can be installed to give residents real-time information on their energy usage and costs. This might help them adjust their utilities consumption to save on bills.

HASSLE-FREE HEALTHCARE

It is useful for people who are convalescing or not well to travel... They can be monitored in the comfort of their own home and reduce healthcare costs.

DR K. THOMAS ABRAHAM, chief executive of Sata CommHealth, which has been testing tele-health devices

Sensors can also be fitted in rooms and toilets to track the movement patterns of the elderly, and alert caregivers on their mobile devices if there are any anomalies.

These solutions, provided by private vendors, would have to be bought or subscribed to separately by flat owners. Prices have not been worked out yet.

Dr K. Thomas Abraham, chief executive of Sata CommHealth, which has been testing tele-health devices, said such technologies would make life easier for patients.

"It is useful for people who are convalescing or not well to travel," he said. "They can be monitored in the comfort of their own home and reduce healthcare costs."

Mr Andy Sim, vice-president and head of enterprise business for Samsung, another of the firms involved in the trials, said it was best that smart products in homes not be obtrusive.

He pointed to one of Samsung's products being tested - a sensor under a mattress that can detect the heart rate, respiration rate and motion level of an elderly resident.

"We have to make it convenient and easy to use. It's important to make it hassle-free," he explained.

The ongoing trials are part of the Smart HDB Town Framework, which aims to leverage on smart technology to improve public housing. Build-To-Order flats in Punggol Northshore, which was launched in May, will come with data ports and additional sockets to facilitate their compatibility with such smart features.

The HDB said it will next extend the trials to existing housing estates, but did not specify where.

HDB chief executive Cheong Koon Hean said: "We want to know what is (the residents') reaction to some of these devices - are they friendly? Are they easy to use? This feedback will be very useful for the commercial companies to refine their products."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2015, with the headline 'Making life easier for patients at home'. Print Edition | Subscribe