Computers, Robots and The Future of Care in Singapore

Singapore’s healthcare sector could soon be dominated by the world of technology, as the country’s Health IT Master Plan revealed this week its plans to have one of the most IT-enabled healthcare systems in the world.

Perhaps the biggest change announced concerns citizen health records, as the country announced its aim that every patient, doctor and healthcare provider will be registered onto a massive electronic database.

Alongside this, citizens will also have access, either via mobile or computer, to their health records.

Help for all

It is hoped that this change will allow patients a better understanding of their own health, as well as providing an easier and more accessible way to help those requiring help with any pre-diagnosed condition.

It is believed this will be especially helpful to those living at home but require some sort of home care, as with the ease of monitoring, any intervention needed can be quickly administered.

Furthermore, the change would allow those requiring home care services to access them through the database via a mobile app.

These would include the ability to call a nurse to visit a home to help, or simply to purchase any medication that may be required as a result of a previously diagnosed condition.

Assisted Robotics

Another change that is part of the country’s Health IT Master Plan is the government’s pledge to have robots assist those in need of care at home.

The robotic aids will begin trialling in hospitals before being allowed for general use.

Speaking at the National Health IT Summit on Tuesday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong described the robot prototypes as “…smart wards integrated with smart logistics for what we hope will be the hospitals of the future.”

In relation to the eventual use of these robotic aids in a home care environment, Mr Yong expressed his desire to bring them into this part of the health sector:

“In line with the shift beyond hospitals to the community, we will also look into robotics-assisted home care.”

Other famous robots

These robotic smart wards are not the first robots to come out of Singapore that are aimed to help its ageing population. In December last year, an exercise robot known as Xuan made the news due to its ability to conduct simple workout sessions for seniors.

And in March this year, an MIT Hacking Medicine Robotics Hackathon saw 12 teams attempt to turn a pre-existing robot, known as Loomo, into one able to take care of elderly people.

The winners, Team Bolton, were able to change the robot into a self-driving wheelchair mechanism.

The device can be attached to an ordinary wheelchair, and through the use of facial recognition, is able to recognise patients in a nursing home or in respite care and then move the wheelchair to where the patient wishes to go.

Sarah Zhang, senior director of robotics business operations at Segway Robotics, says the robot would help free up caregiver’s time by removing the need for them to manually push the wheelchair everywhere.

“Loomo is a very stable platform with man useful sensors, including Intel’s RealSense camera. And since Loomo can move, that helps elderly who lost the ability to move,” she said.




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