Telemedicine necessary for Singapore's aging population

Remote patient monitoring also needed to encourage patients to manage their own healthcare so they're less likely to end up in public healthcare institution where bedcrunch is a challenge, explains Singapore HealthPartners CIO.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring technologies are necessary, even in a small country like Singapore, to support an aging population and allow patients with chronic diseases to better manage their health.

By 2030, some 30 percent of Singapore's citizens will be part of the aging population, according to Singapore HealthPartners CIO James Woo, who noted that elderly folks are less mobile and face difficulties making regular trips to the polyclinics to receive health care. Telemedicine or remote patient monitoring systems will enable these patients to have tele-consultation with healthcare specialists, eliminating the need to make a trip to the clinic unless necessary, he said.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia, Woo said Singapore's Ministry of Health is taking a serious look into promoting discipline among patients, as part of efforts to encourage them to monitor and maintain their own health. Doing so means they are less likely to end up in a public healthcare institution where bedcrunch is a big issue in the country, he noted.

"How we do this is by getting these patients to take their own blood pressure, sugar readings and heart rate through remote patient monitoring," he said.

The CIO also pointed to the benefits of an electronic medical record (EMR) system which he said would improve patient safety, and provide healthcare providers access to a patient's complete medical history to help in their diganosis and establish the right treatment.

The system will also ensure the same medical records can flow seamlessly between the various healthcare providers, including primary care, acute care and stepdown care, Woo explained.

While the public healthcare sector would unlikely face any barriers, he noted that the private sector could face challenges adopting the EMR system because clinics would need to move their data to a digital platform, which would cost them time and money.

Singapore's health ministry would need to provide incentives for the private sector to overcome this, he said, adding that eventually, the private sector would recognize that the benefits outweigh the cost of getting on the EMR bandwagon. 

About Singapore HealthPartners
Singapore HealthPartners is currently constructing a billion-dollar facility, Connexion at Farrer Park, which is touted to be one of the world's first truly integrated healthcare and hospitality facilities, encompassing a specialist medical center, private hospital and luxury hotel.

When completed in 2013, the site will include over 230 hotel rooms, 189 medical consultation suites and 11 operating theaters.

Editorial standards