SINGAPORE - Another $80 million will be injected into a fund to promote productivity in healthcare over the next three years.
Since its launch in 2012, the $130 million Healthcare Productivity Fund has helped to finance hundreds of projects and led to the implementation of 250 successful projects benefiting more than 70 public healthcare and community care organisations.
The injection of funds is to encourage more people to take part in and seize opportunities to improve productivity, said Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat during the debate on his ministry's budget on Wednesday (March 7).
Mr Chee was responding to Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC), chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, and Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who had asked how the ministry encourages healthcare innovation and productivity.
Mr Chee said productivity efforts extend beyond hospitals to the community, citing how the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) will collaborate with providers to redesign traditionally manpower-intensive processes such as rehabilitation and showering.
For example, one project that led to productivity gains involved the use of digital X-rays in place of the traditional method involving heavy X-ray cassettes.
At the National Healthcare Group (NHG) polyclinics, which has converted to digital radiography by last year, X-ray images are now available just six seconds after they are taken.
For patients, the process takes five minutes less - 15 instead of 20 minutes.
Going digital makes a huge difference for the workers involved.
Mr Harris Abdul Razak, 31, a radiographer with NHG and part of the procurement team for the digital system, said in the past they could X-ray up to 80 patients a day "if we rushed".
"Now, we can X-ray 120 patients a day without breaking a sweat."
He added that the high resolution of the digital images also makes it possible to enlarge the image for easier diagnosis.
Meanwhile, to spur innovative solutions on a larger scale, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has set up an office for healthcare transformation headed by Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, former president of the National University of Singapore.
In Parliament on Wednesday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the MOH Office of Healthcare Transformation "will focus on longer-term ideas that can be scaled up for system-level transformation".
Some of these ideas will be tested at the Alexandra Hospital campus, which the National University Health System will take over from the second half of the year, he added.
A new supply chain agency will also be formed to pool supply chain resources and functions of the three healthcare clusters.