Transforming patient care through connected healthcare

For revolutionizing the medication administration process -- from the way doctors make prescriptions to how medicine is served to patients -- a new medication system currently used in three public hospitals in Singapore won the judges' nod in a regional IT award last March and was honored for improving patient care and increasing staff efficiency.

The system called the Closed Loop Medication Management (CLMM) provided many other benefits, including the use of automated medication dispensing machines to pack medicine for patients in nursing homes and community hospitals. The system also provides data that can be analyzed to further improve patient outcomes.

In June last year, four Singapore hospitals have become the first public healthcare institutions in the Asia-Pacific to achieve the HIMSS Stage 6 EMR adoption model, an internationally recognized benchmark that measures the use of IT and electronic medical records to transform healthcare to benefit patients. The only other Asian healthcare institution to have the an HIMSS Stage 6 and 7 accreditation is a private hospital in Korea, the Seoul National University Bundang.

In January last year, Singapore's Changi General Hospital (CGH) launched an innovative patient relationship management IT system that aids nurses in doing follow-up care for patients. The system was built on an established IT customer relationship management (CRM) system and rides on an integrated electronic medical records systems.

Singapore healthcare is actually lucky that there is a dedicated agency that oversees the development of IT systems to be used in all public healthcare institutions, otherwise these milestones and recognition would not have been possible, or would take time to develop. This agency -- the Integrated Health Information Systems (IHIS) -- is a subsidiary of the Ministry of Health (MOH) Holdings.

Dr. Chong Yoke Sin, IHIS CEO, explained that the goal of the "connected healthcare" that Singapore is trying to build is always the improvement of the patient experience and safety.

"To provide the best care, we are not just talking about clinical care here, but also the healthcare experience. As policymakers we need to provide really the best support that can be delivered," she told healthcare professionals attending the HealthcareIT Innovation 2012 last March.

Dr. Chong likewise said that as the overseer of the government's overall IT strategy in healthcare, IHIS is now looking more at the concept of population care, which means basically that healthcare provision should not be just about response and achieving disease outcomes, but also cater to preventive care, reparative care, healthcare and even wellness.

The PRM system it built for the CGH, for example, is not so much about treatment of diseases but a tool for ensuring that the health objectives are achieved for patients who are seeking medical help. Among the system's many features is that it alerts nurses and remote caregivers or tele-carers if a patient misses a medical appointment, is admitted to a hospital or the clinical indicators worsens.

"Managing the expectations means we need to manage the patients who are more aware of their condition and need to achieve the best clinical outcomes. We provide the best care to the patient. It is also about the whole patient experience," Dr. Chong emphasized.

Working in close partnership with healthcare institutions and hospital CIOs, the IHIS ensures that the overall IT strategy being implemented across the country is aligned to this patient-centric approach.

"The plan is for healthcare delivery in Singapore through the use of technology. Our mission is really to bring the best of technology to the scene," she added.

Since its inception in 2008, the IHIS has adopted the so-called 3 Es of transforming the patient experience -- enhancing the patient experience and safety, empowering the patient to develop the capability for self-monitoring and assessment, and enabling the pervasive use of technology to improve clinical outcome and efficiency.

With these strategy in mind, the IHIS has launched innovative IT applications such as the interactive guide, which offers a step-by-step guide for visitors to get to locations such as the clinics, food courts, and washrooms in a hospital and a host of other mobile applications such as the antibiotics guide, the MyHealth Portal, and the patient care communicator.

"We've constantly evolved our systems over the years to achieved our goals, which is seamlessness in patient care," she said. "We feel that analytics is really the next phase. That means a combination of critical and business analytics so we can get information as clinical decisions are made.  As policymakers we need to provide really the best support that can be delivered."