Medtech firms and hospitals a match well-made

The Straits Times by FELICIA CHOO

The best healthcare innovations often marry the expertise of medical workers and the know-how of businesses - and more is being done to promote such tie-ups.

Government agency Enterprise Singapore and the National Healthcare Group (NHG), which owns healthcare institutions, have been actively playing matchmaker in the last few years.

The agency, which promotes enterprise development, has facilitated more than 30 hospital-industry collaborations since 2014, said Mr Johnny Teo, director of its healthcare and biomedical division.

It has done so through schemes such as the Pact programme, which encourages collaborations among companies, including those between healthcare professionals and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop new products or improvements to current systems.

Mr Teo said increased demand for healthcare services, rising healthcare costs and manpower shortages have opened up opportunities for technology to relieve some of the day-to-day challenges faced by healthcare workers.

"Having a clinical partner to provide clinical advice and resources for test-bedding and validation helps to fast-track the development of innovations," he added.

An example of a successful collaboration is that between Tan Tock Seng Hospital and consultancy and engineering firm CoNEX.

In 2015, they worked together to develop a thermal-detection system that can more accurately detect patient movement on the bed compared with conventional bed sensor pads.

After a year of testing prototypes, the system is now being used on 10 beds at the hospital.

It is not just government agencies that are keen on these tie-ups. Healthcare institutions are also looking to come up with innovations through partnerships.

In September last year, NHG set up the Centre for Medical Technologies and Innovations to facilitate the development of medtech solutions between its healthcare professionals and technology firms, such as local SMEs.

Leveraging the experience and technological expertise of industry players makes developing solutions faster, as well as more practical and focused, said centre committee member Loh Yong Joo.

"Most importantly, the industry provides an avenue to scale up the solutions through commercialisation, which brings the solutions to the wider market and population," added Dr Loh.