Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Health, at the Nikkei x NUS Enterprise Digitalisation Forum 2018, at NUS Shaw Foundation Alumni House, 8 May 2018

Professor Wong Poh Kam, Senior Director, NUS Enterprise

Mr Masashi Shindo, Executive Officer, Nikkei Incorporated, Managing Director and Regional Chief Executive Officer, Nikkei Group Asia

Ladies and Gentlemen

1.            A very good afternoon. It is my pleasure to join you today at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Enterprise and Nikkei Group’s Digitalisation Forum 2018. Let me extend a special welcome to our international speakers and participants of today’s forum.

Healthier, Longer Lives

2.            Singaporeans are now living longer and healthier. By 2030, 1 in 4 Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above. Our average life expectancy at birth has reached 82.9 years. Our Health Adjusted Life Expectancy, or HALE for short, which provides an estimate of the average number of years lived in good health, are at 72.0 years in 2016 for males, and 75.2 years for females[1]. These statistics show that we can embrace the new possibilities that longevity brings.  

Advancing Medical Technology for a Future-Ready Healthcare System

3.            We want to not just live long, but also live well. Advancements in medicine and healthcare technology offer new opportunities and potential for healthcare. By keeping abreast with developments, we can introduce clinically effective and cost effective innovations to improve the delivery of our healthcare services.

4.            I am delighted that NUS Enterprise and Nikkei Group have jointly organised this forum, to focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics Solutions for Service Innovation. The latest advancements in AI and robotics have the potential to innovate the way businesses provide services. This brings many opportunities where we can apply them in the area of healthcare, nutrition and other realms of medical technology.

Collaborations between Private and Public Institutions to Innovate Healthcare Delivery

5.            We have been experimenting with and using new technologies in developing Smart Health solutions to improve our healthcare services and productivity, address manpower constraints and deliver affordable and quality healthcare. For example, in the area of robotics, automated guided vehicles are used to move food and linen in hospitals. Robots have also been deployed to automate the process of packing medication safely and efficiently.

6.            AI is also being applied in healthcare, with the Singapore Eye LEsioN Analyser, or SELENA. SELENA is a digital retinopathy detection software which utilises AI and deep learning techniques to screen the eyes for diabetes-related complications, as well as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. Developed by the Singapore National Eye Centre, the Singapore Eye Research Institute and NUS School of Computing, SELENA has shown good diagnostic accuracy and will soon be commercialised.  The team is also working with our healthtech agency, the Integrated Health Information Systems, or IHiS, to test the software alongside our standard screening techniques in the diabetic retinopathy programme offered at our polyclinics. With our collective resources and efforts, we could deploy and expand this technology, and have the chance to become one of the world's first to provide AI-based nationwide screening programmes for diabetic retinopathy.

7.            In addition, with the Multiple Readmissions Predictive Model developed by IHiS, together with National Healthcare Group, National University Health System, and Singapore Health Services (SingHealth), we are able to use a combination of clinical theory and machine learning to automatically identify patients who are likely to be readmitted to hospital multiple times over the next year, with a good accuracy of seven in 10 patients. This replaces the manual risk-scoring screening process that our nurses used in traditional care support programmes, reducing their assessment workload by 90 per cent and allowing them to spend more time focusing on direct patient care.  High-risk patients can also be identified early and receive closer follow up and support from nurses through phone calls or home visits.  This aims to reduce their likelihood of readmission and hence reduce the average length of stay in hospitals. This model supports the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Hospital to Home programme, as we move care Beyond the Hospital into the Community.

8.            IHiS is also collaborating with local startup Kronikare in its development of a smart phone application that uses an AI-controlled thermal imaging system to scan and assess the severity and depth of wounds in mere seconds and with greater accuracy — a task that would usually require two or more nurses half an hour to complete. This patent-pending Singapore innovation will complement the work of our nurses, and enable timely intervention to minimise wound complications. 

9.            Other applications of AI include innovations to help patients rehabilitate better, through assistive devices such as wearable sensors in robotic exoskeletons to predict human intent and gait patterns, or a robotics glove to assist patients who have lost their hand mobility functions. Helping users better monitor and achieve a balanced diet, NUS Smart Systems Institute developed a food journaling, nutrition tracking and analysis app. Called Food (Ig), the app is powered by a deep-learning framework that identifies food types from images taken by users and calculates their daily nutrient intake based on standard nutritional guidelines and food composition data from the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

10.         These innovations reflect our efforts to explore how best to leverage technological advancements to address real-world problems and enhance the capability of our healthcare services. While not all experiments might work, we are making progress and will continue to study the potential that technology brings through collaborations between academic research, public healthcare and health technology, and of course with the industry. I urge the academic community to co-create innovative and robust solutions in partnership with public health institutions and IHiS, so that we can continue advancing our digital transformation of healthcare. This is also in line with our vision, our Smart Nation initiative, and to create a liveable, enduring home; enhancing and improving the quality of our services.

11.         I am sure today’s forum will be the first of many and serves as an excellent platform to bring academics and companies, NUS academics and researchers, and the larger Singapore AI community together to understand the trends, developments and opportunities in this very new area. I hope that this forum will provide opportunities for partnerships with MOH, through IHiS. We can leverage one another’s capabilities and harness the opportunities that AI has to offer, to co-create meaningful solutions to advance medical technology and improve our productivity in healthcare, to better meet the future healthcare needs of our population.


12.         I would like to thank NUS Enterprise and Nikkei Group once again for organising this forum, and wish everyone a fruitful discussion today. Thank you.



[1] Source: https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/statistics/Health_Facts_Singapore/Population_And_Vital_Statistics.html  

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