Govt spending on healthcare set to go up in 3 to 5 years: Heng [TODAY Online]

With Singapore’s ageing population and advancing medical technologies, government spending in this area would go up “even more” in the longer run.


Healthcare spending is going to rise “quite sharply” over the next three to five years, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Wednesday (Dec 6).

With Singapore’s ageing population and advancing medical technologies, government spending in this area would go up “even more” in the longer run, he told reporters while visiting Changi General Hospital and St Andrew’s Community Hospital.

Between 2011 and 2016, annual healthcare expenditure more than doubled from around S$4 billion to S$10 billion. This figure is projected to grow to S$13 billion in 2020.

Mr Heng said: “Now, we have to look at various ways in which we can ensure high-quality care, as well as affordable care... Part of that work is really looking at how we may shift towards a most effective way of caring for our people.”

One major thrust, he said, would be improving community care. Another key area would be preventive care, to encourage Singaporeans to adopt healthy living.

“All this means that government expenditure on healthcare will continue to rise and there are some numbers that we... are quite certain will rise over the next three to five years quite sharply,” he added, but did not elaborate.

Mr Heng also spoke about the need to redesign work processes and jobs, be it for the healthcare industry or the economy at large.

Pointing to the use of technology to boost productivity at the two hospitals, he said: “When our workforce growth is also slowing, being able to re-engineer processes, use technology... so that the whole value chain can be much better done, (this) is going to be important.”

He noted in particular that the two hospitals have also enhanced the skills of their workers while improving their operations.

For instance, robot porters deliver patients’ case notes or fragile items to recipients at Changi General Hospital’s main building and integrated building round the clock, and battery-operated vehicles transport various containers such as food and linen trolleys.

Newer innovations include using thermal imaging technology — developed by Singapore start-up Kronikare — to assess and care for patients with chronic wounds.

Nurses at St Andrew’s Community Hospital use a smartphone retrofitted with a thermal camera to take pictures of wounds. An application in the phone uses artificial intelligence to document and analyse the wound, and to record details such as its depth, tissue composition and temperature of the affected area.

Right now, nurses take up to half an hour to visually inspect and probe wounds to assess them. Injuries located in awkward positions may require more than one nurse to tend to them.

The use of the wound assessment tool has shaved the duration to mere seconds, and requires just one nurse. This has been used on more than 130 patients and has captured more than 1,000 images since a pilot started in August. The hospital hopes to have at least 200 patients involved in the pilot, although there is no specific deadline to accomplish this.

Source: TODAY Online

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