Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at the 4th Health Informatics Summit

22 July 2011 - Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at the 4th Health Informatics Summit, Pan Pacific Hotel Grand Ballroom

Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health 4th Health Informatics Summit on 22 July 2011, 8.30am at Pan Pacific Hotel Grand Ballroom

Good morning distinguished speakers, guests, ladies and gentlemen

1. It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning at the 4th annual Health Informatics Summit jointly organised by MOH Holdings and Infocomm Development Authority. We also have a new partner this year, the NUS Centre for Health Policy and Management.

2. I am heartened to see amongst us thought leaders, key executives and experts in healthcare and healthcare informatics from Singapore, Asia and beyond. This is indeed a great turnout.

3. The Ministry of Health has long recognised the need for an integrated healthcare system in order to provide good healthcare to Singaporeans effectively and efficiently. To do this, we need to systematically align the whole spectrum of healthcare services, from primary care, tertiary care, to intermediate and long-term care around the patient to achieve our goal of patient centred care. I am pleased to note that good progress has been made over the years and, with the advancement of info-technology, I am confident more can be done.

4. One such potential that we can tap on is the Singapore's Next Generation Broadband Network which is near completion. The high speed network can support healthcare delivery in the areas that requires high network bandwidth, such as the digital transmission of large image files. This can facilitate the efficient and seamless transfer of information from acute hospitals to the primary and intermediate long term care sectors. With such an infrastructure in place, we can even explore bringing healthcare right to the patient's home via tele-health or tele-consult.

National Electronic Health Records

5. Singapore has gone through significant changes in the healthcare informatics landscape. In just one decade, we have progressed from digitizing hospital departmental systems to integrated electronic orders, online radiology imaging, closed loop medication management, and clinical decision support.

6. Some years back, we set ourselves the "One Singaporean, one health record vision. I am pleased to note that the National Electronic Health Records System is now ready for use. We are well on our way of achieving this vision.

7. The rollout of the NEHR will be a pivotal point in the history of our healthcare system as patients will be able to move seamlessly within the healthcare system. This will translate into a more holistic and consistent care for patients. Our public hospitals will be the first to come on board, followed by the community hospitals, nursing homes and eventually the private sectors such as GPs and private hospitals.

8. The NEHR journey has been a challenging one. As the Chinese says: 万事起头难 "wan shi qi tou nan", now that we have overcome the initial challenges we will continue to push this vision forward.

9. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those of you here, our clusters and partners, who have contributed to the development and implementation of the NEHR. Without your unyielding support and collaboration, Phase 1 of the NEHR would have been unachievable. The success of the NEHR will continue to hinge on your continued support and the extensive cross-sectoral collaboration and cooperation within the healthcare sector.

Healthcare Over Distance

10. Another area that we want to further exploit is the rapidly developing area of tele-health, where healthcare services can be delivered remotely enabling patients to be monitored in their homes. This innovation will greatly increase convenience and access to timely advice. It will also reduce costs, both medical and non medical, such as fewer duplicate or unnecessary tests, reduced medication errors and transport expenses.

11. In the upcoming months, MOHH together with IDA and EDB will be announcing a Call-for-Collaboration to encourage greater adoption of telehealth technologies in the area of community teleconsultation. Leveraging on the national broadband infrastructure, it allows the healthcare community to explore more sophisticated use of tele-health. Other than offering innovative products and solutions, it will also facilitate greater collaboration between healthcare providers and industry partners.

Your Health, In Your Hands

12. Beyond the realm of hospitals, putting technology and information in the hands of patients and the population can enable them to better manage their own health and wellness. While our focus continues to be equipping clinicians with technology that will help them perform their jobs effectively and efficiently, in the near future, we should also be enabling Singaporeans to take care of their own health.

13. A recent survey showed that Singaporeans have the highest level of internet access compared to our Southeast Asian neighbours. 85% of digital consumers in Singapore own an internet-capable device. We should take advantage of this trend.

14. A workgroup comprising officers from my Ministry, MOH Holdings and HPB are developing a national strategy for personal health management (PHM) that will put timely and actionable information in the hands of patients to allow them to better manage their own health. Instead of being passive recipients, this will also create a paradigm shift where patients work in close partnership with healthcare providers.

15. We are working on developing a national architecture and platform to support personal health management. This will allow enterprises and interest groups to create applications and services for Singaporeans. The platform must move beyond providing static health information and personal health records to the individual. It should have solutions and services to fit different needs, demographics and health status. So whether you are a healthy active young person, a working adult or someone with chronic disease, there will be personal health applications and tools to support your different needs.

Concluding Comments

16. The growing sophistication in the use of IT in healthcare delivery will enable us to deliver care safer, faster and in a more cost effective way. With greater patients' engagement, we can look forward to a more health conscious and discerning population. We will also need to be prepared for the next generation of patients who will come to expect convenient access to healthcare information and services as part of their overall healthcare experience.

17. This summit provides the platform for thought leadership and the sharing of best practices in healthcare informatics. The potential in this area is vast. I am sure with your participation and contributions over these two days, more bright ideas, innovative solutions and clinical best practices will be unraveled and implemented. I wish you all a fruitful summit.

18. Thank you.