More help for patients in hospital-to-home transition

New scheme aims to train people to check on discharged patients of SingHealth institutions

Patients in hospital with multiple chronic conditions will receive more help in managing their transition to home care with the launch of a programme yesterday.

The Care Coordinator Associate Programme aims to train people, including mid-career Singaporeans, to check on discharged patients of SingHealth institutions, which include Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH).

Such care coordinators will be full-time employees of SingHealth institutions and draw a salary of $1,600 to $2,200. They will be taught how to conduct telephone follow-ups and make home visits to ensure patients and their caregivers are able to keep to the discharge care plan drawn up by a team of "patient navigators", who are registered nurses.

Care coordinators will also assess the safety of the patient's home and his risk of suffering falls. They are tasked with educating patients on lifestyle and dietary changes, and connecting them to social support services such as home and day care, financial assistance and meals-on-wheels.

"As the main liaison between patients and health and social care providers, care coordinator associates are instrumental in ensuring that patients transit smoothly from one care setting to another," said Professor Fong Kok Yong, deputy group chief executive officer of regional health and medical at SingHealth.

"By keeping a close eye on patients post-discharge, the care team can spot complications early and intervene before they worsen, helping patients to remain well supported in the community."

In March, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor announced that more mid-career Singaporeans will be trained as care coordinator associates.

Anyone can sign up for the programme, paying $5,350 in fees.

After completing the three- month full-time course, they will be awarded a certificate in integrated care. The first intake of up to 20 trainees will start their training in September, and be deployed to SGH and KKH.

Singaporeans making a mid-career switch to the healthcare sector as care coordinators will get 90 per cent of their training fees funded under the Professional Conversion Programme, with the remaining fees covered by participating employers.

Interested applicants will need to be hired by participating employers before undergoing training. Applications for the first intake are open from now till July 31.

SingHealth is also partnering Republic Polytechnic (RP) to develop a new specialist diploma in transitional care management. The part-time programme will start in October and students can later join SingHealth as care coordinator associate executives.

The two institutes are also working to incorporate a transitional care module into the curriculum of RP's diploma in health services management. The module will start in October next year for Year 2 students, who can join SingHealth as senior care coordinator associates.

Other healthcare institutions also offer similar services such as transitional care, which helps ease patients back into their homes after discharge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2017, with the headline 'More help for patients in hospital-to-home transition'. Print Edition | Subscribe