Hospitals' winning ways with IT

SINGAPORE - Two local hospitals that use new technology to improve health care have been honoured by an international society.

Changi General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital were among seven across Asia marked out for awards on Monday.

The winners were chosen by an international panel of academics, professionals and an adviser from the World Health Organisation.

Changi General Hospital was singled out for its collaboration with Integrated Health Information Systems (IHIS), a Singapore firm that designs IT services in health care.

Their process - called a closed-loop medication management system - began in July, aiming to improve patient safety and reduce human error by using QR barcodes.

In the past, doctors would write prescriptions on a form and pass it on to the hospital pharmacy, which manually packs the medicines.

The new technology allows doctors to key prescriptions into the system via a computer and transmit it to pharmacy staff, who check if the patient has any allergies.

Once cleared, a robot retrieves the medicine and generate daily dosages in separate sachets encoded with QR codes.

Before a nurse dispenses the medicine, a coded wristband on the patient will be scanned to double check dosages and prescriptions.

"This also ensures that different types of medication which sound similar are not mixed up," said a hospital spokesman.

An IHIS spokesman added: "Our systems are regularly serviced to ensure the equipment and related components are functioning properly. On top of this, the processes also include quality and safety checks by staff."

Patient safety is also behind the initiative of a temperature tag system introduced at Tan Tock Seng Hospital five years ago.

A small flat disk powered by a replaceable battery that is taped to a patient's abdomen can monitor body temperature every four hours.

Mr Yong Keng Kwang, the hospital's director of nursing, told The Straits Times on Monday that it saves the nurse only one to two minutes per patient but long-term benefits make it a worthwhile investment.

"It saves transcription error. It's very useful in pandemic cases as well," he said.

The awards were organised by the international non-profit organisation Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and Dutch health information firm Elsevier.

Five other hospitals - in Hong Kong, South Korea, China and India - were also honoured.

The award ceremony was part of Digital Healthcare Week, which opened at Marina Bay Sands on Monday. 

The event ends on Thursday and includes forums and panel discussions attended by international healthcare professionals.

Dr Amy Khor, the Senior Minister for Health and Manpower, told the opening ceremony: "IT can greatly facilitate the integration of care across care settings so that care can become more person-centric and more effective."

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