Opening Address by 2M Tan See Leng at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress 2023

Opening Address by 2M Tan See Leng at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress 2023

Members of the SingHealth and Duke-NUS Boards
Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth

Professor Roger Vaughan, Associate Dean, Office of Research, Duke-NUS Medical School

Ladies and gentlemen


1. Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you today at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress 2023.


2. This Congress started in 2010. Now in its 7th edition, the Congress has become an important gathering of minds among the healthcare and scientific community, where thought leaders and delegates share best practices, exchange ideas and forge collaborations to push the boundaries of science and medicine.


3. Under the Human Health and Potential (HHP) domain of our Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 plan, we are strengthening our focus on health promotion and disease prevention. This involves a more data-driven, patient-centric and technology-based healthcare approach. This builds on our investments in the biomedical sciences over the past two decades, particularly in R&D, whether it is at the A*STAR research institutes or our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs). Our strong foundation and capabilities in this area were evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Singapore was one of the first countries to culture the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as develop diagnostic kits and first-in-class serological tests.


4. I am heartened that many aspects of today’s Congress are aligned to these priorities. The theme for the Congress is “Advancing Frontiers in Population Health through Academic Medicine”. Its focus is on harnessing science, research and innovation to improve health and care outcomes, particularly at the population and community level. There are sessions which focuses on specific prevalent diseases and chronic conditions, ageing and healthcare innovations for older persons, as well as youth and adolescent health. As a medical doctor by training, these are topics very close to my heart.


Advancing research and technology in healthcare and health promotion


5. Research and technology have played important roles advancing frontiers in population health. For example, a key focus of our healthcare and health promotion approach is in the community and home, outside of hospitals and clinical settings. The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened this, when we saw a dramatic increase in telehealth and medication delivery services. We must continue to leverage on the momentum to build on such home-based, hospital-level care to patients. Under the Ministry of Health’s Mobile Inpatient Care @ Home programme, SingHealth introduced its hospital@home initiative, such as the SGH@Home programme. This is a “virtual ward” concept where clinically stable patients recover at home while being closely monitored by a multidisciplinary healthcare team.


6. To facilitate this initiative, SingHealth and the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) developed ‘Dr Buddy’, a telehealth solution comprising a chatbot, a clinician dashboard as well as automated push messages and reminders. The solution is customisable based on a patient’s needs and condition. Through Dr Buddy, a patient can self-report their health data, such as vital-sign readings for remote monitoring by their healthcare team, as well as receive curated healthcare tips and medication reminders. Since October 2021, SGH@Home and Dr Buddy have helped to reduce more than 1,200 admissions and 8,300 bed days in SGH. There are plans to make Dr Buddy even better, such as automatic real-time collection of health data from a patient’s health monitoring devices, as well as AI-enabled features to further personalise patient, disease and symptom management more efficiently.


7. I’m glad that SingHealth and A*STAR have continued to forge new partnerships, including the Healthcare Translation Partnership announced in April this year. This partnership provides S$8 million to accelerate the translation, deployment and commercialisation of healthcare research and innovation, with a focus on i) medical technology, ii) data science, AI and digital health as well as iii) health services. I look forward to more innovations brought from the bench to bedside through this and future partnerships between SingHealth, A*STAR and its research institutes, and also more broadly, more collaborations among the many brilliant minds in our local research ecosystem.


8. Besides healthcare, technology plays an equally important role in health promotion. For example, the EMPOWER app was developed by SingHealth and the NUS School of Computing to improve management of chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Eating right and living an active lifestyle are crucial to managing such conditions, and EMPOWER is another handy health buddy. Besides recognising different food types and providing relevant dietary recommendations, its AI and data-enabled model encourages an individual to achieve at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.


9. A randomised controlled trial on diabetic users of the app showed benefits, including increased physical activity and notably, a statistically significant improvement in HbA1c or glycosylated haemoglobin levels after just 12 months.


10. Improving such patient outcomes is really at the heart of our healthcare system. Streamlining and optimising other tasks such as administration and operations can also free up more time and resources for our healthcare teams to better serve our patients. I’m sure most, if not all, of you have heard of generative AI. SingHealth and Microsoft are developing new ways for doctors and nurses to use generative AI to produce discharge summaries and medical reports, as well as to convert verbal consultations with patients into structured clinical notes. This would allow the clinical team to spend more time interacting with patients and their families.


Opening of innovation centre to nurture healthcare innovation ecosystem


11. I’m pleased that, this morning, the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC) will be officially opening the Alice Lee Innovation Centre of Excellence (A.L.I.C.E) at the SGH Campus. A.L.I.C.E@SGH Campus is an innovation centre that aims to accelerate the development and adoption of healthcare innovations such as medical technology and digital solutions. The Centre is named after the late Mrs Alice Lee, wife of the Lee Foundation’s founder, the late Mr. Lee Kong Chian, in recognition of a generous $50 million donation from the Lee Foundation for innovation and research in the AMC.


12. The Centre is a purpose-built living laboratory for brainstorming, prototyping, and test-bedding of innovations. It fosters collaborations between clinicians and healthcare innovators from SingHealth and Duke-NUS, as well as industry partners such as product owners, contract manufacturers and suppliers. Further, it serves as an incubator and working space for spin-off companies and other startups. This assembly of expertise is supported by the Centre’s range of facilities and tools such as SingHealth’s first supercomputer, in partnership with the National Supercomputing Centre (NSCC) Singapore, as well as a 3D printing lab.


13. I am confident and I am excited that we will hear about more healthcare innovation initiatives such as A.L.I.C.E@SGH Campus that will make a difference to patient care, operations, and clinical outcomes. I wish A.L.I.C.E@SGH Campus, as well as its community of clinicians, innovators and partners, every success in their endeavours.




14. What I have touched on today offers a glimpse of the impact and potential of medical science, research, and innovation. Over the next two days, I encourage all of you to deepen discussions, share ideas and forge new collaborations to push the frontiers of science and medicine.


15. It is now my pleasure to declare open the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress 2023. I wish everyone a fruitful and enjoyable two days of learning and sharing.


16. Thank you.

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