SINGAPORE: The National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) is streamlining its queue system and redesigning its patient admission system, ahead of the opening of its new S$266m building next March.
The new processes are expected to reduce cost and waiting times for patients while raising the staff’s productivity.
The new 12—storey building will have 38 specialist outpatient clinic rooms, more than double the 18 at the current Mistri Wing facility.
This could mean shorter waiting times for patients.
Associate Professor Koh Tian Hai, medical director at the National Heart Centre Singapore, said: "We will try to work towards a shorter waiting time. Currently we have infrastructure constraint at Mistri Wing. We only have 18 clinics...we’re expanding, double the number (of clinics). There will be a much better process to get the patients’ throughput there (at the new building)."
He added that common clinical services will be near one another in the new building so that patients need not travel to different floors. For example, they can get their blood tests and ECG done on the same floor before seeing the doctor at the clinic.
And there’s more — the 1Q1B or One Queue One Bill system will add to the patients’ convenience.
This means patients only need one queue number and can pay a consolidated bill at the end of their visit.
Alson Goh, COO of the National Heart Centre Singapore, said: "Actually we’ve done a survey. A lot of the clinics have one queue number within the clinic, but once they need a service outside the clinic, for example, the radiology department is outside the clinic or out of the centre.
"For Heart Centre, we’re a one—stop centre within the same building. So, all services within the system has one queue number."
Mr Goh estimates this saves 10 minutes of queuing and re—queuing for patients. At the same time, it raises the productivity of the centre’s staff by 10 to 20 per cent.
In addition, a new process called "same day admissions" means patients can choose not to be warded a day before undergoing a simple cardiac surgery like a heart bypass surgery.
Dr Kenny Sin, head of Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the National Heart Centre Singapore, said: "This helps patients save time and money, between $32 and $345 for a day’s stay in a normal ward, while also freeing up beds at the centre."
Pre—operation procedures like blood tests can now be done a week before, during a pre—surgery visit.
Up to 400 low—risk heart surgery patients could benefit from the same—day—admissions process each year, according to Associate Professor Koh.
The new facilities and processes come against a backdrop of rising demand for specialist care services, with the number of patients at the centre expected to grow by 60 per cent by 2020.
While some 4,000 public and community hospital beds will be added by 2020, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said there is also a need to address the growing demand for specialist services, such as cardiac care.
He said the number of specialist outpatient visits for cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery has more than tripled to 271,000 in the last 18 years.
Mr Gan added that outpatient visits at the National Heart Centre Singapore almost tripled from 42,000 to 113,000.
The minister also stressed the importance of collaborations between acute hospitals and primary care providers.
For example, NHCS has partnered SingHealth for the Delivery on Target Programme, a model for community—based chronic disease management where general practitioners work with NHCS to keep patients’ conditions stable and prevent hospitalisations, said Mr Gan.
"I hope to see more of such initiatives and collaborations so that Singaporeans can benefit from a more holistic provision of cardiac care. We have been actively engaging our GP colleagues and also developing new models of primary care such as Family Medicine Clinics," he said.
Mr Gan said the ministry expects to add about 66 cardiologists and 10 cardiothoracic surgeons to the national pool over the next few years.
The new building of the NHCS will be located at Hospital Drive, opposite Block 4, Singapore General Hospital.
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