SINGAPORE - The first hospital facility in Woodlands, the 1,800-bed Woodlands Health Campus (WHC), will depend heavily on smart technology to improve patient care in the face of a "shrinking workforce".
The campus, which is expecting to take in its first patient in 2022, will have both acute and community hospitals, a nursing home and specialist clinics.
It will be the first where both acute and community hospitals are built together and share the same building - as they will also share some medical professionals - so patients can seamlessly move from acute to step-down care with the same doctors in charge.
At the ground-breaking ceremony on Tuesday (April 18), Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said WHC has to be "future ready" so it can meet the challenge of growing demand from an ageing population while facing manpower constraints.
Referring to an article in the Economist magazine this month, Mr Gan said hospitals of the future can be air-traffic control towers "from which the healthcare team monitors its patients whether they are in the hospital or at home".
QUICK FACTS ON WOODLANDS HEALTH CAMPUS
- 1,800 beds over 7.66 hectares (about 11 football fields).
- Opening progressively from 2022.
- Acute and community hospital will be part of the same building.
- Specialist clinics in separate block linked by bridge to main building.
- Many online services that allow patients to check-in, register, fill in medical information, order medicine and pay.
- Use of artificial intelligence to sift through large amounts of data to help healthcare professionals make better decisions and reduce medical errors.
- Walking distance to Woodlands South MRT (opens 2019).
- Dementia friendly long-term care housing with living room space for family to spend quality time with patient.
- Several gardens designed by National Parks Board: Healing Forest Garden with two "serene" zones and two for social interaction and play areas. Therapeutic Gardens with "restorative environment".
Mr Gan said he is glad to see that the WHC team is using new technology to reduce manual work as well as using data analytics and artificial intelligence to improve patient care. For instance, filling in medical information and the ordering of medication can be automated. This allows healthcare professionals like nurses to focus on their clinical and direct patient care roles.
The facility will also rely on telehealth to allow people to access hospital services – such as registration, ordering medication, and payment – from their own homes. Robots will be deployed to automate back-end logistics such as housekeeping, freeing up staff to attend to patients’ personal needs.
A new hospital should not be "business as usual", Mr Gan said. "Each time we build a new healthcare facility, it presents a precious opportunity to innovate and reinvent the way we deliver healthcare."
With the ageing population and rising chronic ailments, he told the WHC team to "take the opportunity to develop new care models to enable the shift towards greater community-based care".
Dr Jason Cheah, who heads the planning committee, promised that the focus of WHC will be on "oneness". He explained: "We will be built as a single integrated campus serving patients with care needs ranging from the urgent to recovery to end of life."
The new campus will also include green spaces, such as a 1.5-hectare Healing Forest Garden with open spaces for exercise, community gardening plots, and quiet areas for people to just sit back and enjoy nature.
Referring to the recent announcement of plans to add as many as 10,000 new homes in Woodlands, Mr Gan said the WHC is well placed to support the growth of the area as a regional centre. The two hospitals at WHC, with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and its adjoining Yishun Community Hospital, will provide a total of 2,400 hospital beds to serve the growing population in the north, especially the mature estates of Woodlands, Marsiling and Sembawang.
Many MPs from the area were at the ground-breaking ceremony, including Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Mr Khaw Boon Wan (Sembawang GRC), and Speaker of Parliament Madam Halimah Yacob (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC).