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Singapore leads regionally in personalised healthcare innovation

Every so often, a fundamental shift occurs in healthcare that completely revolutionises the way it is planned and delivered. When CT scans, antibiotics, or transplants first reached health systems, they transformed the nature of medicine, and improved the outcomes patients would come to expect. The next revolution in health is coming, and Singapore is pioneering it.

That revolution is personalised healthcare – a reimagining of medicine so that it becomes focused around the patient, rather than around their condition. Treating an illness has traditionally meant following a set pathway. But no two patients are alike. Their medical history, their home and work lives, their treatment preferences and their genomics can all vary wildly. Even the same illness can vary from person to person: the DNA change found in one individual’s cancer might not match the same cancer in someone else.

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However, personalised medicine looks to harness that variety and use it for the benefit of patients. By gathering and analysing data on all those variables that affect each individual and their condition, personalised healthcare enables physicians to develop treatment approaches that are designed specifically around a particular patient and their unique needs.

MEASURING READINESS

Today, Singapore is the leader in personalised healthcare, according to the Personalised Healthcare Index for Asia-Pacific supported by Roche, a multinational healthcare company, which measured the readiness of 11 health systems in the region to adopt personalised healthcare.

Given the potential benefits that personalised healthcare offers, it is perhaps no surprise that all 11 locations have made progress towards adoption. However, while Taiwan, Japan and Australia all ranked well, Singapore stands out as the region’s trailblazer, and the country with the highest level of personalised healthcare readiness throughout the region.

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Moving from a traditional medical model to a personalised healthcare approach will require innovation across a number of areas: from how information is gathered by healthcare professionals to the devices consumers use, to the policies governments and healthcare decision-makers put in place. Despite the scale of the challenge ahead, Singapore has already become the most advanced country in Asia-Pacific (APAC) in preparing for personalised healthcare.

Singapore has been able to achieve this level of readiness through a number of initiatives that will prove useful in underpinning the future adoption of personalised healthcare. Nationally, it has established a series of comprehensive strategies that will enable personalised healthcare, such as the national precision medicine programme and Three Beyonds plan.

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Alongside public policy initiatives that indirectly support personalised medicine, Singapore also has laid the foundations for its adoption in other ways. They are through its strong digital infrastructure, such as mobile connectivity and cloud services, and level of digital maturity for example, along with its significant uptake of the technologies that will enable personalised healthcare.

To determine countries’ level of personalised healthcare readiness, the Index measured their performance across four categories known as Vital Signs. Singapore ranked first in two Vital Signs – health information and personalised technologies – and came second in another, health services. These indicators, as well as the performance of Singapore and the other countries, were measured and validated by a panel of 15 independent healthcare experts, drawn from across the region for their expertise.

In health information – which covers the data, infrastructure and technical expertise that underpin the adoption of personalised healthcare – Singapore leads APAC thanks to factors including its cancer registries, such as the national registry which has gathered invaluable information on the condition for the last 50 years, in addition to its well-established electronic health records system and policies.

Singapore also leads in personalised technologies – which looks at the devices, applications, platforms and reimbursement structures needed to drive personalised healthcare – through its extensive use of artificial intelligence, particularly in a healthcare context for uses including modelling and imaging, as well as the reimbursement models it uses around companion diagnostic systems. Although it was the runner up in the health services Vital Sign, Singapore still fared well through its use of evidence-based guidelines and telehealth uptake.

THE PATH AHEAD

But even for a leader like Singapore, there is work to be done in the pursuit of greater personalised healthcare. Singapore achieved its lowest score of all four Vital Signs in policy context; and there is a clear opportunity for the country to develop and implement an overarching policy that directly aims to advance personalised healthcare as a whole in the country.

Personalised healthcare offers so much potential to improve health outcomes because it provides clinicians with better quality data: on treatments, on a patient, on a disease itself. Equipped with that information, clinicians can make better decisions that will positively impact both individual patients and population health as a whole.

Enabling data-driven decision making is a key objective of the Personalised Healthcare Index for APAC too. By combining robust publicly available data with insights from leading APAC healthcare experts and health policy stakeholders, the Index offers a level of insight into the region’s personalised healthcare readiness that simply has not been available before. And, by spotlighting where countries are forging ahead in personalised healthcare, it is hoped that the Index will help health systems across APAC establish best practices and cross-sector collaborations.

Healthcare in Singapore and the region more broadly is facing a number of concerns, whether it is addressing the rise in lifestyle and age-related chronic conditions; building future-proofed health systems that are prepared for future pandemics; or ensuring that healthcare providers can keep delivering and improving the healthcare standards that patients expect.

 

 

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