Thursday, 20 April 2017

Woodlands Health Campus will add 1,800 beds and use technology for better patient care

Hospital campus of the future to rise in Woodlands
Driven by tech, facilities will be designed to complement one another from the start
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 19 Apr 2017

Woodlands is raising the bar for healthcare by getting Singapore's first hospital complex with facilities designed from the outset to complement one another. It will also be driven by technology that enables fewer staff to care for patients.

The 1,800-bed Woodlands Health Campus (WHC), which expects to see its first patient in 2022, will have an acute hospital and a community hospital sharing the same building from the start. It will also house a nursing home and specialist clinics.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told The Straits Times that the WHC would be the first hospital complex in which acute and community care services have been conceptualised together and are being built at the same time.

"We will have seamless integration from hospital to community hospital to nursing home, so if you are in the nursing home and need acute care, it's very near," he said.

Set on a plot of land the size of 11 football fields, the various institutes will also share common facilities such as gardens and rehabilitation centres, as well as services like laundry and cooking.

At the ground-breaking ceremony yesterday, Mr Gan said the WHC has to be "future ready" to meet the growing demands of an ageing population, while overcoming manpower constraints.

The WHC will use new technology to reduce manual work and tap data analytics and artificial intelligence to improve patient care.

The campus plans to provide every patient with a device akin to a watch on admission, to monitor vital signs, activity and location.

Nurses would know the moment a patient's blood pressure rises by too much, or be able to locate a dementia patient. They could also keep tabs on a patient's condition via teleconferencing after he returns home.

In that sense, Mr Gan said, hospitals of the future would be like air traffic control towers "from which the healthcare team monitors its patients whether they are in the hospital or at home".

Dr Jason Cheah, head of the planning committee and chief executive of the Agency for Integrated Care, said the campus will serve patients with care needs ranging from the urgent stage, to recovery or end of life.

"Unlike in the past, our future patients will require longer and deeper relationships to be established with care providers," he said.

The plan is to offer patients better alternatives to hospitalisation, Dr Cheah added.

The WHC will work with doctors and community providers and partners. It will also use technology such as telehealth and video conferencing to provide care for patients outside of the hospital and encourage them to self-monitor and manage their conditions.

On the recent announcement of plans to add as many as 10,000 new homes in the area, Mr Gan said that the WHC is well placed to support the growth of Woodlands as a regional centre.

Several MPs from the area were at the ceremony, including Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob.

New health campus to harness power of nature, technology
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 19 Apr 2017

In the hospital of the future, patients might call for nurses using their smart wristbands, before heading outdoors for a stroll in a forested park.

These are some of the features envisioned for the new Woodlands Health Campus, where a combination of technology and nature promises to change the face of healthcare in Singapore.

For starters, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday, grunt work like filling in medical information can be left to the machines.

"Manual work... can be automated, allowing healthcare professionals to focus on their clinical and direct patient care roles," he said.

On top of that, the new campus will use data analytics and artificial intelligence to sift through the vast amounts of information generated each day, helping staff to make better decisions and fewer errors.

The 7.66ha campus, located near the upcoming Woodlands South MRT station and slated to open in phases from 2022, held its ground- breaking ceremony yesterday.

When completed, it will have both acute and community hospitals, as well as specialist outpatient clinics and a facility for patients requiring long-term care.

Dr Jason Cheah, who is the chairman of the pro-tem planning committee for the campus, said that telehealth will play a big role in making hospital visits more convenient for patients.

"Instead of waiting to enter the hospital and then filling up forms and answering questions, I could do it online - in the comfort of my own home," he said.

"Hopefully, the wait will be a lot less as only the things that doctors and nurses need to do physically for the patient will be done on site."

Patients could also get electronic wristbands that remind them of upcoming medical appointments and track their vital signs, even when they are at home.

Adjacent to the new campus will be a 1.5ha Healing Forest Garden designed by the National Parks Board. It will have community gardening plots, open spaces for people to exercise and quiet areas for those who simply wish to sit back and enjoy nature.

The campus will also feature several smaller therapeutic gardens, where the landscaping and plants are specially designed to suit different patients' needs.

For example, the "dementia garden" at the long-term care facility will have scented plants with varied textures to stimulate a person's senses.

Other gardens could be planted with trees and shrubs that attract wildlife, or have plants in soothing colours such as blue and purple.

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