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SINGAPORE – Step into the Smart Ward on the second level of Alexandra Hospital and the first thing that catches the eye is the soft, almost natural, lighting. It is designed not only to help visitors find their way, but also to minimise eye strain in patients when they are wheeled out of the ward for surgery. Its smart beds can also “talk” to nurses through alerts, real-time updates and round-the-clock monitoring of a patient’s vital signs.
Over at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, a hulking 800kg robot assistant helps surgeons with complex microsurgery that almost halves the length of an operation, with less blood loss in the patient and faster healing times. More Singapore hospitals and medical start-ups are rolling out state-of-the-art medtech designs that are saving lives as well as improving the quality of life for those who need long-term medical attention, such as asthma patients and wheelchair users.
Medtech design is a highly specialised discipline that not only looks at aesthetics, but also aspects of user experience, such as patient safety, cost-effectiveness and the efficiency of equipment and products. According to Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB), the Asian medtech market is expected to grow at an annual rate of about 8 per cent and projected to overtake the European Union as the world’s second-largest market after the United States. Singapore is well placed to help medtech companies tap the growing potential in Asia. The republic has a vibrant ecosystem of top universities, research institutions and start-ups. There are more than 25 research and development (R&D) centres here, established by multinational medtech companies and a local pool of more than 200 medtech start-ups and small- and-medium-sized enterprises.
Singapore’s early adoption of 5G and 6G networks, and the shift to connected devices, also offer companies a strong base to build their businesses centred on big data and patient-centric care. According to a Netherlands Enterprise Agency report commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in March 2022, the Asia-Pacific medtech industry was valued at almost $213 billion that year. The report noted that despite the economic recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the medtech industry in Singapore continued to grow.
Medtech in Singapore represents an important sector of the economy, sustaining more than 9,000 jobs.
Singapore is a leader in Asia’s medtech R&D. It accounted for $105 million of health technology funding, which makes up 24 per cent of the total investment across Asia (excluding China and India). Many of these medtech innovations are already in use in hospitals and other health institutions here.
NUHS Centre for Innovation In Healthcare At the NUHS Centre for Innovation in Healthcare (CIH), which is housed on the grounds of Alexandra Hospital, a different ecosystem is thriving.
The centre is a one-stop hub for innovations that improve the quality of healthcare for NUHS patients. CIH is run by Professor Lawrence Ho, its director, and Dr Rina Lim, who heads the centre.
Two of its market-ready innovations are The Whizz, which helps asthma patients, and the Spectra IMDx, an optical biopsy device which detects gastric cancer.
The Whizz, developed by local start-up Meracle, simplifies medication delivery and routine to help patients achieve good asthma control. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
The Whizz, developed by local start-up Meracle, simplifies medication delivery and routine to help patients achieve good asthma control.
It provides users with visual feedback that reinforces the correct inhalation of medication with each breath. This ensures medication is delivered to the lungs and not the back of the throat.
The Whizz was developed by researchers and doctors from the National University Hospital and National University of Singapore, and recently obtained approval from the Health Sciences Authority. The team is conducting clinical trials at NUH and aims to deploy the gadget in the next one to two years.
Singapore start-up Endofotonics developed Spectra IMDx, an artificial intelligence-enabled optical device that can provide doctors with real-time diagnosis of gastric cancer.
Doctors are able to differentiate between pre-cancer and non-cancer lesions during the endoscopy. The device complements traditional white light in a standard endoscopy and helps reduce unnecessary biopsies.
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Written by: Chantal Sajan
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