Singapore’s Health Minister lauds paperless system from Nova

After the National Skin Centre dumped their paper files, patients have found their waiting time at the place drastically cut.

For example, instead of waiting for about for about 20 minutes to collect their medicine, they can do it in half the time.

Now Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan is hoping that the results the centre has seen from going paperless will “put pressure” on others to follow suit.

Since March last year, the centre has been keeping all its medical records electronically – registration, doctors’ prescriptions and patients’ case files. The change saved it $237,000 at the end of the year in labour costs and it now needs fewer staff to retrieve and transfer files.

At an event to mark the centre’s achievements yesterday, Mr Khaw lauded the breakthrough made by the centre, the first medical specialist centre to go totally paperless. He also expressed a desire to see other specialist centres and polyclinics follow suit.

Said the minister: “In fact, don’t stop there. I see no reason why we can’t have the first paperless hospital in this part of the world, hopefully sooner rather than later.”

But, he added, medical institutions should not computerise for computerisation’s sake. Doing so must lead to real benefits for patients and medical staff.

At the Skin Centre, both patients and staff say they have benefited.

One patient, flight attendant Sallygrace Quek, 40, who has been going to the centre for pigmentation problems since December 2003, said: “When I started, I waited as much as 30 to 45 minutes before my name was called. But today if I have an appointment at 11am, I’ll be seen in less than 15 minutes.”

The centre’s general manager, Ms Loo Swee Cheng, said going electronic enables her to monitor how busy the clinics are from her office. And doctors also benefit as the system alerts them to patients’ drug allergies and gives them quick access to test results.

Mr Khaw pointed out that the computerisation of the health-care sector is a major thrust of his ministry, as well as an issue in countries like the United States and Britain are looking into.

He set no timeline for health institutions to go paperless, saying it is up to them to come up with a model that suits them. ” Those who can run fast, let them run. Don’t hold them back,” he said.

quote from The Straits Times, 30 May 2005

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