Singapore ahead in use of digital health records, but behind in AI for diagnosis

Some 89 percent of healthcare professionals in Singapore use digital data records, ahead of their peers in Australia and India, but it is behind countries such as China and Saudi Arabia in tapping artificial intelligence to improve the accuracy of their diagnoses.

Healthcare professionals in Singapore are ahead in their use of digital medical records, but behind countries such as China and Saudi Arabia in tapping artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the accuracy of their diagnoses. Instead, more in Singapore are using AI to enhance the efficiencies of administrative tasks. 

Some 37 percent of healthcare professionals in the city-state used AI to support administrative work such as staffing and patient scheduling, while a lower 28 percent turned to the technology for diagnosis, according to Royal Philips' annual Future Health Index, which polled 200 healthcare professionals in Singapore. The global study covered 15 countries including Australia, China, France, Germany, India, and the UK, assessing responses from some 200 healthcare professionals in each market. In total, the survey was based on 3,044 respondents in healthcare including doctors, surgeons, nurses, and licensed practical nurses as well as 15,114 individuals that represented the general adult population.

In Singapore, 26 percent of healthcare professionals used AI to flag patient anomalies, while 25 percent used it to facilitate remote patient monitoring, the report revealed. Singapore, however, is behind in comparison to 45 percent of their peers in China who tapped AI to improve the accuracy of their diagnoses, as well as 34 percent in Saudi Arabia who did likewise. 

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Singapore was ahead of Australia, though, where just 8 percent of healthcare professionals used AI to enhance the accuracy of diagnosis. 

The survey pointed to concerns about job security as a potential barrier to wider AI adoption in Singapore, where 20 percent expressed fear that their long-term job security could be threatened by advancements in healthcare technology such as AI and telehealth. 

Philips' Asean Pacific CEO Caroline Clarke said: "By primarily using AI for administrative tasks, like scheduling appointments, Singapore's healthcare professionals risk missing out on the enormous benefits it can bring to patient outcomes. Technology will never replace the 'human touch', but AI can save time and improve diagnosis accuracy, thereby, having a huge potential for saving peoples' lives."

While they seemed hesitant to tap AI, Singapore health professionals were more open to using digital health records, with 89 percent doing so in their practice or hospital, ahead of 81 percent each in Australia and China and 76 percent in India. 86 percent of practitioners in Singapore would also share patient data electronically with peers within their healthcare facility, compared to 84 percent in Australia, 81 percent in China, and 80 percent in India. 

Singapore's adoption could be fuelled by their regard for technology, with 80 percent describing digital health records as a positive impact on the quality of care and 69 percent pointing to its positive impact on patient outcomes.

In addition, 67 percent said patients had benefitted from having access to their own health records over the past five years. However, just 28 percent of Singaporeans had such access, with 20 percent of individuals unsure whether they did or did not have access to their own medical data. Amongst those who had access to their digital records, half were more likely to use it if they understood how such data could help them more easily manage their health. 

And while the majority of healthcare professionals would advise their patients to monitor key health indicators, including 61 percent encouraging the tracking of blood pressure, 43 percent of Singaporeans had never shared health data they collected from digital technology or mobile apps with their doctors. 

In comparison, 81 percent in China said data they gathered from their digital health devices and mobile apps often led them to contact healthcare professionals, as did 74 percent in Saudi Arabia. In Singapore, this figure clocked at just 34 percent.

The country also lagged in the adoption of telehealth, at 68 percent, compared to China and Saudi Arabia which led the way at 89 percent and 75 percent, respectively. India's telehealth adoption tipped at 66 percent, while Australia was 61 percent. 

The Philips report suggested that higher adoption of the technology could be due to high patient demand, where 44 percent of citizens in China and 38 percent in Saudi Arabia indicated a preference for a remote-access healthcare consultation via a digital platform for non-urgent care, if given an option to do so. In comparison, 27 percent said likewise in Singapore. 

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