New health campus to harness power of nature, technology

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong planting a tree with an Admiralty Primary School pupil and Alexandra Health System chairman Jennie Chua at the Woodlands Health Campus' ground-breaking ceremony yesterday.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong planting a tree with an Admiralty Primary School pupil and Alexandra Health System chairman Jennie Chua at the Woodlands Health Campus' ground-breaking ceremony yesterday.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

In the hospital of the future, patients might call for nurses using their smart wristbands, before heading outdoors for a stroll in a forested park.

These are some of the features envisioned for the new Woodlands Health Campus, where a combination of technology and nature promises to change the face of healthcare in Singapore.

For starters, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday, grunt work like filling in medical information can be left to the machines.

"Manual work... can be automated, allowing healthcare professionals to focus on their clinical and direct patient care roles," he said.

On top of that, the new campus will use data analytics and artificial intelligence to sift through the vast amounts of information generated each day, helping staff to make better decisions and fewer errors.

The 7.66ha campus, located near the upcoming Woodlands South MRT station and slated to open in phases from 2022, held its ground- breaking ceremony yesterday.

When completed, it will have both acute and community hospitals, as well as specialist outpatient clinics and a facility for patients requiring long-term care.

Dr Jason Cheah, who is the chairman of the pro-tem planning committee for the campus, said that telehealth will play a big role in making hospital visits more convenient for patients.

"Instead of waiting to enter the hospital and then filling up forms and answering questions, I could do it online - in the comfort of my own home," he said.

"Hopefully, the wait will be a lot less as only the things that doctors and nurses need to do physically for the patient will be done on site."

Patients could also get electronic wristbands that remind them of upcoming medical appointments and track their vital signs, even when they are at home.

Adjacent to the new campus will be a 1.5ha Healing Forest Garden designed by the National Parks Board. It will have community gardening plots, open spaces for people to exercise and quiet areas for those who simply wish to sit back and enjoy nature.

The campus will also feature several smaller therapeutic gardens, where the landscaping and plants are specially designed to suit different patients' needs.

For example, the "dementia garden" at the long-term care facility will have scented plants with varied textures to stimulate a person's senses.

Other gardens could be planted with trees and shrubs that attract wildlife, or have plants in soothing colours such as blue and purple.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'New health campus to harness power of nature, technology'. Print Edition | Subscribe