Healthcare innovation centre opens in Novena

A new centre to promote innovation across the public healthcare sector was officially opened yesterday by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

The Ng Teng Fong Centre for Healthcare Innovation (CHI) opposite Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in Novena aims to transform healthcare operations, help healthcare workers turn their ideas into working prototypes and increase access to information and knowledge.

Mr Gan said: "With rising healthcare demands from an ageing population and slowing local workforce growth, we need to innovate and transform our system to overcome constraints and seek new solutions.

"I hope to see CHI play a pivotal role in promoting innovation in healthcare."

The building houses TTSH's new state-of-the-art command, control and communications (C3) system, jointly developed by TTSH and the Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), the central IT agency for the public healthcare system.

The C3 centre, which will go live progressively from the third quarter of this year, is similar to an airport control tower and provides operators with real-time visualisation of the hospital's ground operations, said the hospital's chief operating officer, Dr Jamie Lim.

"Our approach to bed management has moved away from inventory management, which just looks at the number of beds we have available, to a patient flow concept.

"What this means is that we are now following patients from the point of admission to discharge, and optimising how we assign beds to them," added Dr Lim.

Patients who enter the hospital's emergency department will be tracked and prioritised, depending on the severity of their conditions.

The system will also use artificial intelligence to assign patients to the most optimal bed and ward according to their needs, predict potential choke points and keep track of beds that are occupied by patients scheduled to be discharged.

Mr Bruce Liang, chief information officer at the Health Ministry and chief executive of IHiS, said: "We hope to scale C3 to other public healthcare institutions from 2020.

"When scaled at a national level, C3 will enable enhanced load balancing of our healthcare resources across the public hospitals to better serve our population, as well as allow for better coordination during a national crisis."

He said the system will make it possible for ambulances to coordinate with the hospitals and send patients to an emergency department with more available capacity, instead of a congested one.

The new CHI facility also features a "makerspace" - a collaborative work space - on the first floor, called the CHI Living Lab.

Healthcare professionals who come up with ideas can consult designers there who use various tools such as 3D printers to turn concepts into working products.

For example, a prototype of a geriatric chair is currently being trialled for physical rehabilitation at TTSH, said Ms Lynette Ong, director of the hospital's Kaizen Office, named after the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement.

A staff member of TTSH's rehabilitation ward came up with the idea for the chair, which can transform into a bed for caregivers or a bench for visitors.

It was developed in collaboration with Nanyang Polytechnic and conceptualised at CHI.

A new open knowledge repository called the CHI Learning and Development system, to be housed at CHI, is also in the works.

Associate Professor Wong Hon Tym, CHI's clinical director, said: "The system will allow Singapore's healthcare facilities to contribute their collective experiences, projects, lessons and best practices to a searchable database.

Prof Wong said his team has curated about 300 projects for the repository so far.

They are aiming to gather a total of 500 by the end of the year, when an online portal for the system is set to be launched.

Topics range from elder care and chronic wound management to population health and patient engagement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2019, with the headline 'Healthcare innovation centre opens in Novena'. Print Edition | Subscribe