Covid-19 accelerates healthcare transformation at Alexandra Hospital
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus here, Alexandra Hospital's (AH) two isolation wards have been kept busy.
While it is currently treating just one active confirmed case, four to 10 new suspect cases are admitted every day.
The outbreak has given doctors a chance to use technology that would have otherwise taken months to adopt.
If all goes to plan, patients warded in the hospital's 23 isolation rooms can talk to doctors and nurses this month via a robot.
Called BeamPro, it is produced by a Danish company and sold here by Singapore-based company Blue InCube.
It can deliver medication and meals so nurses and staff members would not have to put on and dispose of personal protective equipment (PPE) each time they enter and exit an isolation room.They need only to wipe the robot down after each use.
This is the first time such a telepresence robot is being deployed in an isolation setting, said the hospital.
Dr Louisa Sun, an infectious disease associate consultant at AH, told reporters on Wednesday that even for isolated patients who are well and stable, doctors needed to don full PPE if they wanted to ask them simple questions or verify information.
The coronavirus has also created other challenges at AH.
Every week, it handles about 250 outpatient follow-up appointments. But since the outbreak, 10 to 15 per cent have been rescheduled or no-shows.
This pushed AH to get a telemedicine pilot off the ground in just six days so that outpatients can still be managed safely and continuously.
Called vCare, the video consultation service has been available since Feb 20, and seven patients have had virtual follow-ups since then.
Dr Alexander Yip, AH's clinical director of healthcare innovation, said AH is the first restructured hospital to provide a telemedicine service on a large scale, making it available for all its outpatient clinics.
Before the outbreak, BeamPro was housed at AH's Centre for Innovation in Healthcare for three months, undergoing clinical validation and test bedding.
Said Dr Yip: "The minute we saw the (chance), we accelerated things and brought it forward."
During the debate on his ministry's budget yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said Singapore continues to explore how technology such as telemedicine can improve care.
He added that 25 public healthcare institutions and 39 community care partners have started video consultation pilot services to date.