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AI-Powered PPE in Singapore General Hospital

A project team led by the Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH) Nursing Division has collaborated with a company that customises its PPE for hospital use. The hands-free solution uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology and the cloud to provide automated guidance and checks in accordance with SGH’s stringent PPE protocol.

PPE is the first line of defence against infectious diseases, according to Ang Shin Yuh, Deputy Director, Nursing Division, SGH, but it is only effective when worn correctly. Nurses assigned to the Community Care Facility at Singapore Expo in 2020 to care for COVID-19-positive migrant workers had to double-check each other’s PPE before entering the Halls.

“We also had to do a manual audit every single day to ensure compliance on the ground. It was labour intensive, and unsustainable. That realisation pushed us to think about automating the process using artificial intelligence and image recognition,” says Deputy Director Shin Yuh who also first mooted the project.

SGH is a not-for-profit institution that is wholly owned by the Singapore government. It is the flagship hospital of the public healthcare system that has identified problems and is actively working to resolve them.

Thus, SGH strives to ensure that all staff and visitors are properly wearing their PPE before entering an isolation facility. The nursing project team, on the other hand, had to first improve the solution to recognise Asian features and skin tones before tailoring it to the Hospital’s needs, including the types of PPE used.

The hospital was an ideal partner for deploying the cutting-edge PPE to train and monitor staff on infection control and prevention procedures. Hospitals save lives, and SGH is one of the institutions with innovative practices and improving nursing practises. This technology has now been fine-tuned and is ready to assist even more medical teams across Singapore and the region.

The customised solution consists of three modes – PPE Buddy, Train and Practice, and Visitor – that have been individually validated by the team with approximately 200 staff and visitors. When installed, the solution converts a tablet into a digital mirror that can be easily mounted on a tripod and carried into any area of need, or on any flat surface, such as a wall, with easy access to PPE supplies.

Using cutting-edge imaging technology, the system works hands-free to study clinicians and ensure that their PPE is properly applied. This improves infection control and lowers the risk to staff and patients.

The technology can be integrated into both existing and new infrastructure at the hospital. In the future, the solution can be further customised for disease-specific protocol, contact tracing, and image recognition for staff access. When the next pandemic strikes, SGH will be in the best possible position.

Meanwhile, SGH pioneers the 3D-printed chest implants in the region. Patients with moderate to severe symptoms may opt for the Nuss procedure, which is a minimally invasive surgery. The SGH was able to print the bioresorbable implant in collaboration with other medical institutions by using CT scan images of the patient processed by the SGH’s Department of Diagnostic Radiology for 3D printing. The fit was determined by placing a prototype model of the implant on SGH-printed chest wall models.

Currently, 3D models printed by SGH allow surgical teams to practise complex cases as well as pre-size and pre-shape implants prior to surgery. The SGH will capitalise on the potential of 3D printing and expand its use to improve patient care, beginning with the opening of its very own 3D printing Centre at the end of this year.

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