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Minister Gan Kim Yong announces development of Singapore’s first Robotics Middleware Framework at National Health IT Summit

Minister Gan Kim Yong announces development of Singapore’s first Robotics Middleware Framework at National Health IT Summit

Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, announced the development of Singapore’s first Robotics Middleware Framework and shared the need to boost innovation and scaling in Singapore healthcare at the National Health IT Summit organised by Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), the HealthTech agency for Singapore.

The Summit also featured the National HealthTech Challenge proposals that seek to address public healthcare challenges. At the event, IHIS also unveiled plans to collaborate with chatbot players for experimentation and development of decision support tools to benefit patients. Aimed at improving population health and the delivery of patient care in the longer term, the initiatives will enable greater collaboration between public and private sectors to boost innovation and scaling in healthcare.

The initiatives are in line with efforts by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to address the challenges of an ageing population, rise in chronic disease, and shrinking workforce, and are aligned with its strategies to shift beyond healthcare to health, beyond hospital to community and beyond quality to value.

Mr Bruce Liang, Chief Executive Officer of IHiS and Chief Information Officer at MOH, said that, in addition to the treatment space innovations in public healthcare, two other areas will also be developed: the preventive space to encourage citizens to adopt healthier habits, and in the post-treatment space to better support patients and empower them to better manage their health in the community. To realise this vision, collaborating with healthcare providers and consumer technology companies will be crucial to ensure that the care in the community is sustainable and effective, warranting healthy living and disease management in homes, workplaces and other places outside of clinics and hospitals. More effective engagement methods must be employed to reach patients. This can be done through digital health technology and consumer products which patients use on a regular basis. For example, a popular voice or text messenger app, social media app or a wearable such as a smartwatch.

The Summit featured expert speakers from across the world who discussed ideas on scaling innovations in the area of artificial intelligence, robotics, cybersecurity and more.

The Summit also showcased innovative concepts by the top 20 finalists from the inaugural National HealthTech Challenge organised by IHiS. Participants proposed solutions in the area of artificial intelligence, multimedia, sensors & devices, and others (clinical/pharmaceutical solutions). A total of 78 organisations participated in the Challenge which was aimed at bringing professionals from the healthcare, technology, research, and education sectors together to solve public healthcare challenges with tech-enabled innovations and reduce barriers to innovation and scaling.

With the burgeoning of the chatbot scene worldwide, IHiS recognises the potential of chatbots in the healthcare space. Local and global start-ups and established companies were invited to participate in an accreditation exercise to make their platforms available for experimentation and development of decision support tools. The proposals are currently being evaluated. Possible future use cases include self-triaging with strict protocol and appointment-making for the purpose of right-siting patients, enabling them to seek help with the appropriate healthcare provider with the potential of saving patients time and money and reducing demand at public hospitals. Public healthcare professionals can look forward to leveraging the panel of chatbot companies for collaboration by the end of 2018.

Singapore’s first Robotics Middleware Framework for Healthcare The new RMF for healthcare is a technology adoption and integration framework that will facilitate the development and wide-scale deployment of smart systems. As one of the world’s most comprehensive RMFs, it will enable many different and complex technology systems within and outside of healthcare to ‘talk’ and work with each other according to a standard framework, much like a network of information highways for robots and IoT (Internet of Things). When completed, the highly-interoperable RMF will reduce the complexities for the integration of the many equipments, devices and robots in healthcare, and encourage greater innovation and cross-sector collaboration to co-create solutions and applications, in building Singapore’s Smart Nation.

This three-year research and development collaboration is led by MOH’s Smart Systems Programme Office, supported by Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology (CHART) and IHiS, in partnership with Government Technology Agency (GovTech), and industry partners Open Robotics (Singapore) and HOPE Technik.

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