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Singapore’s First-of-its-kind Health District

Queenstown, Singapore’s first satellite town, is set to become a health district as part of a pilot programme aimed to assist residents in living healthier and more productive lives. The Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National University Health System (NUHS), and the National University of Singapore (NUS), in collaboration with several stakeholders from the public, private and people sectors, are embarking on a first-of-its-kind collaboration to establish the Health District @ Queenstown pilot.

Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for National Development and Communications and Information, oversees the Queenstown Health District, along with Rahayu Mahzam, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Communications and Information, and Eric Chua, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Queenstown was chosen as the Health District’s pilot site because its demographics closely resemble Singapore’s expected national demographics by 2030. Currently, the municipality boasts one of the city-oldest state’s populations, with about one in every four Singaporeans aged 65 and above.

We will leverage the broad range of expertise of our partners to create integrated solutions to enhance the health and well-being of residents across their life stages.

– The Housing & Development Board, the National University Health System and the National University of Singapore

There are opportunities to pilot interventions for bettering citizens’ well-being, promoting health-seeking behaviours, and encouraging social connections in conjunction with other forthcoming development and rejuvenation plans for Queenstown. The trial will focus on facilitating intentional longevity by giving participants chances to volunteer, work, and engage in lifelong learning. It also aims to encourage residents to follow preventive health recommendations by moving services from hospitals to or near their homes.

In addition, NUHS will also launch an updated My Health Map initiative to boost residents’ access to preventative health services by providing health screenings to residents on-site when appropriate and holding community health lectures. They can also get suggestions for health exams and vaccines based on their demographics and health status using the app’s My Health Map function. Patients can also use the app to schedule in-person visits, register for a queue number, and view the number of patients ahead of them in the queue.

“The launch of the teleconsultation feature is extremely opportune considering the Covid-19 scenario,” said Ms Clara Sin, chief operating officer of NUH and NUHS’ group service transformation and medical records offices. The agency aims to ensure that all patients receive consistent care and that they do not have to travel to the hospital, especially the elderly.

In an interview conducted by OpenGov Asia, Associate Professor Thomas Lew, Group Chief Data & Strategy Officer, National Healthcare Group, explained that Singapore is a densely connected city-state where the complexities of an internet-enabled telehealth consultation compete with the standard physical visit to the doctor. According to Associate Professor Lew, telehealth must be contextualised for value, grounded on trust-based relationships, in areas such as real-time biological monitoring, and round-the-clock trusted advice and alerts.

“For the healthy population, the potential of health coaching for individuals and organisations has yet to be fully realised.  To envision telehealth beyond transactional efficiency much remains to be done,” he explains.

Artificial intelligence and automation services and systems also significantly benefit healthcare. Yet, Associate Professor Lew believes, while AI is not in the consciousness of mainstream healthcare workers, it is ubiquitous without their realisation.

The Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the National University Health System (NUHS) are also working together to develop affordable and usable technology to improve the lives of residents, beginning with solutions co-developed with residents, caregivers, and family/community support networks. Ultimately, the agencies said that they will collaborate with the industry to test and deploy applicable technology that allows individuals to remain self-sufficient, aids in illness prevention, and enhances healthcare delivery.

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