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Shashank ND

Pulse check: 4 predictions for Singapore's healthcare in 2017

BY SHASHANK ND

Since gaining its independence a little over half a century ago, Singapore has made giant strides forward and stands out not only within the Southeast Asia region but also the world. In particular, healthcare in the country has been exemplary, with Singapore recently sharing the top spot with Iceland and Sweden in a ranking by the United Nations of the healthiest places to live in the world1.

With such promising developments in the works, the next step for Singapore is to increase coverage of digital healthcare by making it more accessible and available to a wider pool of citizens. Digital healthcare adoption looks promising as a recent healthcare attitude survey2 conducted by Accenture showed that Singaporeans are very willing to use technology to improve their healthcare experience, compared to other countries like Japan and Australia.

With that in mind, we can expect to see a couple of developments moving into 2017:

1. Singapore turns to smart healthcare to tackle its aging population issue
The Ministry of Health indicated that 30,000 more healthcare workers will be needed by 2020 due to increasing pressure on the healthcare system by an aging population3. In the meantime, healthcare providers will be looking to ramp up productivity, increase quality of care, and reduce the amount of time staff spend on administrative tasks. 

It is no wonder then that healthcare has been a core focus of the Singapore government’s plan to make the country the world’s first Smart Nation through various technology-based initiatives. This includes the use of wearable technology and sensors to improve tracking of one’s health, elderly monitoring systems, as well as providing healthcare and support remotely4.

2. Doctors get support from automation
Aside from patient care, many private healthcare providers are looking to streamline their workflow to move away from inefficiencies such as manually writing patient records or filling in appointment details on physical documents, which can be difficult to locate. Instead, they are looking to software as well as specialised hardware and tools to help improve the quality of their service and patient experience, shorten queues, enable more efficient communications with patients, organise appointments, and more, ultimately allowing them to see more patients and achieve cost savings. 

3. The app economy comes to healthcare
There has been a considerable amount of discussion on the proliferation of apps and the app market5, and we are seeing this trend making headway in the healthcare industry. For instance, governments could use apps to reach out to the public about how to prevent/identify symptoms of an infectious disease; educating the public on the disease and the areas to avoid; directing people to hospitals for disease testing; and more. Consumers themselves will come to rely on apps for healthcare purposes as well, such as finding the nearest doctor or looking for the most suitable specialists for themselves. 

4. Singaporeans want easier and better access to healthcare
Patients are no longer content with visiting their neighbourhood GPs; they want to ensure the quality of the healthcare they receive by visiting reputable healthcare providers. This has led to an increasing demand for feedback and review platforms accessible to patients. They are also less willing to spend long periods of time in waiting rooms, and are starting to look for the healthcare providers that allow patients to book an appointment online, as well as receive reminders before their visit. 

Singaporeans will also move towards the adoption of integrated healthcare platforms connecting doctors across the world, both public and private. The entire journey of a patient can be mapped, right from booking an appointment, finding a lab, getting a second opinion, patient experience feedback, delivering medicine to the patient's doorstep, and to reminders for patients to take their medicine. Most importantly, patients can share access to their medical records on these platforms, allowing doctors access to the full picture of their medical history and give the most appropriate advice.

1http://sbr.com.sg/healthcare/news/singapore-emerges-healthiest-place-live-in-world
2https://www.accenture.com/sg-en/insight-power-patients
3https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/pressRoom/pressRoomItemRelease/2016/launch-of-2020-healthcare-manpower-plan-at-second-national-semin.html
4http://www.smartnation.sg/initiatives/Health/tele-health
5https://www.techinasia.com/stay-curve-latest-forecast-app-economy  

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Shashank ND

Shashank ND

Shashank is CEO at Practo. He founded Practo in 2008 when he discovered that there was a profound need to transform the healthcare industry and centre it around the patient. Shashank has a B.Tech from NIT, Surathkal and is a founder circle member of iSPIRT, a think tank for the Indian software industry. He was featured in the '30 under 30' list of young influential people to watch by Forbes in 2015.

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