In Focus
HEALTHCARE | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Singapore trails behind China and Saudi Arabia in AI healthcare adoption

Less than a third of Singaporeans have access to their digital health records.

Despite the digitisation of Singapore's healthcare sector, only 28% of locals have access to their digital health records (DHR), according to an annual report by Dutch healthtech firm Royal Philips. Of those with access to their DHR, 50% admitted that they would be more likely to use the records if they knew how it could help them manage their health.

The Future Health Index (FHI) 2019 report concluded that Singapore’s healthcare professionals have failed to fully leverage AI to its full potential for treatment and diagnosis as they largely use it to improve administrative tasks like staffing and patient scheduling (37%) than for diagnosis (28%), flagging patient anomalies (26%) and facilitating remote patient monitoring (25%).

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However, the blame is not on hospitals alone. Patients are also reluctant to share medical data with 43% of locals admitting to have never shared their health data with healthcare professionals even as more than half of healthcare professionals advise their patients to track their blood pressure, physical activity and weight amongst other medical information. "More needs to be done to educate and encourage Singaporeans to proactively collect and share their health data on an ongoing basis. This will be key for SIngapore to shift to disease prevention over cure in the long-term," Caroline Clarke, CEO at Philips ASEAN Pacific said in a statement.

Emerging countries are paving the way for AI adoption to improve the accuracy of their diagnoses, with 43% of China’s healthcare professionals and more than a third in Saudi Arabia implementing such solutions. Telehealth adoption in China and Saudi Arabia at 89% and 75% respectively also tower above Singapore at 61%.

However, Singapore ranks ahead of India and Australia, which saw the lowest usage in AI healthcare use amongst the 15 countries in the study at just 8%.

Part of the reason Singapore lags behind in AI healthcare adoption comes from apprehension from professionals who are threatened by new advancements in healthcare technology, such as AI and telehealth.

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"By primarily using artificial intelligence for administrative tasks like scheduling appointments, Singapore's healthcare professionals risk missing out on the enormous benefits it can bring to patient outcomes," added Clarke.

Despite its dismal regional ranking, Singapore is able to hold its own against Asian countries in terms of digital technology usage, with 89% of Singapore’s healthcare professionals using digital health records in their hospital or practice, compared to 81% in Australia and China, and 76% in India. Nearly nine in ten healthcare professionals also share patient information electronically with other healthcare professionals that are inside their health facility compared to 84% in Australia and 80% in India.   

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