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Singapore Deploys New Medical System for Critical Care Patients during Emergencies

Today’s emergency care system is plagued by overcrowding, patients boarding in hallways waiting to be admitted, and daily ambulance diversions. According to several industry analysts, increased treatment accessibility is one of the most visible ways that technology has changed healthcare. Health IT opens many more avenues for exploration and research, allowing experts to make healthcare more focused and effective than ever before.

With this, changes have brought to the way Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulances and emergency departments in hospitals coordinate have resulted in faster emergency care. The deployment of the latest medical system will provide care providers with access to medical records, enable teleconsultations with doctors, and allow for the pre-registration of critical patients. The system is the result of a partnership between the SCDF, the Ministry of Health (MOH), and the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA).

The medical system leverages digitalisation and information technology in order to ensure timely flow of information between emergency care providers.

– Clinical director of MOH’s Unit for Prehospital Emergency Care.

In a presentation to the media, the organisations said the system creates a common platform that links “stakeholders in the pre-hospital emergency care services, such as SCDF’s Operations Centre, SCDF Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and hospitals’ emergency departments”. It will enhance the work of paramedics and field operations, added SCDF’s chief medical officer.

“Every day in the emergency room, we are used to dealing with strokes, heart attacks, trauma, or even cardiac arrest, where every minute makes a difference,” said the clinical director of MOH’s Unit for Prehospital Emergency Care.

The system, he said, leverages “digitalisation and information technology in order to ensure timely flow of information between emergency care providers”. Once an ambulance is dispatched, the SCDF operations centre will ask for the patient’s NRIC to retrieve the relevant health records. The paramedic will also verify the identification at the site.

Other forms of identification, such as an employment pass or work permit, could be used by non-citizens to access patient data. If the patient cannot be identified, he may be registered as an unknown person at first. The MOH asserted that with the health records, the emergency room doctor will know what to expect. If the patient has a history of asthma, for example, this information will be transmitted to an SCDF paramedic who is equipped with the medical system.

The second change to the current system will be paramedics trying to take photos or videos of the patient’s injury or the accident scene to facilitate a telemedicine consultation with the emergency doctor while on the way to the hospital. The consultation will take place via text message and video call.

The medical system will also allow the patient’s vital signs to be shared in real-time with emergency departments. This will assist doctors in planning while keeping the patient’s condition in mind. The third change will be that SCDF paramedics will pre-register critical cases so that the emergency department can prepare for the patient’s arrival.

The clinical director of MOH’s Unit for Prehospital Emergency Care said the medical system will enable emergency departments in hospitals to retrieve patient records and start ordering scans, X-rays, or medications for patients, “It will reduce unnecessary delays that may happen in the manual process (of handing over patient data)”.

Pre-registration will be rolled out in SingHealth hospitals first, followed by other hospitals over the next year.  This is due to the ongoing migration of electronic medical records in other hospitals affiliated with the National University Health System, National Healthcare Group, and Raffles Medical Group. The system uses analytics and data sharing, as well as cloud technology, as per the senior programme manager of DSTA’s Systems Engineering and C3 Centre. She further said that DSTA is working with paramedics, emergency department doctors, and nurses to make the system as simple and user-friendly as possible.

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