Research, education needed to tackle challenges of ageing population: Gan Kim Yong

People waiting for their turns at a waiting room at Tampines Polyclinic.
People waiting for their turns at a waiting room at Tampines Polyclinic.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Research and education is needed to tackle the "intensified care needs" of our rapidly ageing population, said Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong on Friday (Sept 23).

"Singaporeans enjoy access to a very good healthcare system now, but we must rethink our approach and seek to transform our system to meet new challenges and importantly, ensure sustainability," said Mr Gan.

He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress 2016, held at Academia.

Mr Gan noted that healthcare institutions here have embarked on research projects to meet the country's healthcare needs.

For example, Singapore General Hospital (SGH) is expanding a successful study for a new model of care to improve the safety, cost-effectiveness and right-siting of care for high-risk patients upon their discharge from hospital.

The transitional care programme showed a 20 to 30 per cent reduction in hospital re-admission risk and length of hospital stay for these patients. The study will be expanded to 5,000 high risk patients in SGH in the next three years.

Another research project involves building a genomic and clinical database of 20,000 healthy individuals and heart disease patients to study the markets that may predict an individual's risk of developing heart disease.

The project is a collaboration between the National Heart Centre Singapore, the SingHealth Duke-NUS Institute of Precision Medicine, and the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

The Ministry of Health has also developed technological infrastructure to facilitate collaboration among healthcare professionals, researchers, policy makers and analysts from different agencies.

This includes linking data from multiple sources in real time to perform secure federated analysis, enabling research and analytical projects to cut across geographical boundaries for population-level studies.

The new infrastructure is piloted by the Singapore Cardiac Longitudinal Outcomes Database study led by the National Heart Centre Singapore. The study aims to investigate the long-term clinical outcomes, quality of care and overall medical cost of care in cardiovascular patients across hospitals here.

Mr Gan also highlighted the importance of faculty members - such as doctors, nurses and allied health professionals - in educating the healthcare workforce.