Self-health management at a population level is only possible if the entire health ecosystem is going to pull together its resources and energies, says Benedict Tan, who will be speaking at the HIMSS22 Asia-Pacific Conference in Bali this year.
Tan is Group Chief Digital Strategy Officer and Chief Data Officer at SingHealth, Singapore’s largest public healthcare cluster.
He imagines a future where digital technologies will empower every patient to take control of their own health.
This is increasingly becoming a reality, he says, under the present age of Healthcare 4.0 which has brought together both digital and non-digital technologies.
“As we have seen from how the healthcare industry adapted quickly and efficiently during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am optimistic that all we need in order to achieve this is to focus our efforts and resources together,” he continues.
Passion for health IT
Tan has been in the healthcare IT business since landing his first job at Singapore’s National Computer Board, which got him assigned to a post at the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Tan is passionate about all things health IT, from ensuring his colleagues’ notebooks and IT networks are working well, to implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions that enable quick and accurate patient diagnosis.
“Some may not see the significance behind the mundane and seemingly simple IT tasks but they are equally important to me as they are about providing the right IT tools and solutions to healthcare professionals to enable them to treat patients and save lives,” he says.
Throughout his career, Tan has been involved in some key health IT projects, including the review and streamlining of the civil service benefit claims system and the implementation of an RFID-based bed management system for Singapore General Hospital.
“Both involved collaboration with multiple key stakeholders to thoroughly review and understand the processes that cut across agencies and departments with the objective to simplify and streamline them with digital technologies. Ultimately, for both projects, the focus was on improving the lives of the customers, that is, the civil servants making the claims and the patients who need hospital beds for their recovery.”
He recalls having an interaction with a young doctor who chose to specialise in Medical Informatics. “When asked about why he chose to work on IT instead of treating patients, he replied, ‘If I practise as a doctor, I can potentially treat thousands of patients in my lifetime. But if I implement successful IT solutions, I can potentially save millions of lives.’ His reply inspired me and has kept my passion alive ever since”.
Address rising IT costs
A public healthcare cluster like SingHealth is constantly exploring and carrying out new digital technologies to transform its services for better patient care and experience, Tan says.
Presently, SingHealth is following up on its success in deploying SELENA+, an AI system for detecting major eye diseases, by working on AI/machine learning projects that also read digital images to support the clinical diagnosis of other health conditions. It is also exploring the use of AI technologies to predict workload and support scheduling to optimise resources and improve patient experience and clinical outcomes.
Additionally, the healthcare group is collaborating with the MOH and other public healthcare clusters to leverage digital tools that support population health.
However, one rising concern faced by healthcare agencies, more so than organisations in other industries, is the increasing costs of implementing new technologies. Tan and his team are very mindful of this.
“While digital technologies bring a lot of benefits for patient experience and care outcomes, public healthcare agencies need to manage the costs of introducing digital technologies to keep healthcare affordable and accessible for patients,” Tan suggests.
Tan will be speaking at the HIMSS22 APAC Conference during the keynote session, Care isn’t What it Used to Be: The Need to Elevate Consumer Experience. The conference will be happening in Bali, Indonesia from 26 to 29 September. Find out more here.