Bringing innovations at the brink of healthcare transformation to the forefront

By Ming En Liew

Six near-market-ready medical solutions were awarded a total of S$2.4 million at the recent Healthcare InnoMatch event. These winning teams will go on to test their solutions at public healthcare institutions in Singapore.

The annual Healthcare InnoMatch event seeks to accelerate the adoption of healthcare innovations within the healthcare ecosystem. Image: Centre for Healthcare Innovation

Artificial intelligence may soon take on a greater responsibility in Singapore’s healthcare space both within clinics and beyond. A new AI tool could help clinicians detect breast cancer more accurately from mammograms, while another AI image-based solution hopes to help predict and prevent patients from falling in hospitals, nursing homes and their homes.

These are just two of the six winning solutions presented at the finals of Singapore’s Centre for Healthcare Innovation’s (CHI) Healthcare InnoMatch 2022, which was held on 9 September this year. Beginning in 2021, Healthcare Innomatch is an annual challenge that calls for healthtech proposals from start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises that can transform the future of healthcare. It is organised by CHI and supported by the Ministry of Health and non-profit Temasek Foundation.

Winners from Healthcare InnoMatch will go on to testbed their solutions at partnered healthcare institutions around the nation, and also receive a combined total of S$2.4 million (US$1.69 million) in funding to help them bring their solutions to fruition.

This year’s InnoMatch event is the first time all three healthcare clusters in Singapore (National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and Singapore Health Services) came together to assess the feasibility of the proposals. It was themed ‘Delivering Care Beyond Hospital Walls’, and sought to strengthen Singapore’s focus on providing better care in the community and raising awareness of preventive health and early intervention.

An insight into the future of healthcare

GovInsider had the opportunity to speak with several of the winners in the weeks following the event, to better understand their winning products and how they could revolutionise healthcare as we know it.

One of the winning proposals was an AI-based solution that hopes to improve fall prevention at home. Shen Nansheng, the Deputy CEO of healthtech enterprise CoNEX Healthcare, says, “With a growing ageing population and limited healthcare resources, there is a need to ensure the elderly can age in place safely instead of prolonged stays in hospitals or nursing homes.”

Their tool can be installed in the homes of elderly patients who face a fall risk. It then uses thermal imaging and AI to detect if a fall has occurred, and can send automatic notifications to the care team if so.

During a pilot test, the team at CoNEX healthcare identified several factors that contribute towards falls based on the data collected, Shen says. Winning this competition will enable the team to gather further inputs from healthcare providers to fast-track adoption. This will allow them to test PreSAGE’s fall prediction capabilities on a larger scale and eventually develop interventions that can help with fall prevention, he adds.

Another AI-powered technology that managed to secure funding at Healthcare InnoMatch 2022 is FXMammo™ - an AI that is able to detect signs of breast cancer from mammograms created by AI healthtech firm FathomX.

While breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, successful treatment requires reliable diagnosis, which can be challenging given the difficulty involved in reading mammograms, says Amos Wang, Chief Operating Officer of FathomX. “The need for a reliable, accessible solution that addresses the low ratio of radiologists to mammography screening needs for breast cancer is urgent and tremendous,” he adds.

FXMammo™ could help to alleviate the manpower constraint and accurately identify signs of breast cancer from mammograms, serving as a tool for the education of trainee radiologists while helping specialist radiologists triage and avail their time for other tasks.

The other winning proposals from Healthcare InnoMatch 2022 included:
  • A post-surgical recovery management solution for remote monitoring of patients’ condition, using wearable sensor devices. It also comes with an AI therapist to guide users in exercise and detects post-surgery complications
  • A neuroscience-based technology that is clinically proven to help reduce stress and improve sleep quality
  • A muscle-mitochondria activating technology that provides supplementary muscle activation to help recovering stroke patients
  • An automated cardiac ultrasound software to diagnose heart failure

Driving healthcare innovation

“Start-up solution providers experience great frustration trying to testbed and deploy their products in our local healthcare system, given their limited resources,” says Associate Professor Wong Hon Tym, the Clinical Director of CHI.

Other challenges that start-up solution providers face include a lack of understanding of real-world clinical needs and difficulties in sustaining their presence in a competitive marketplace, adds Associate Professor Tan Cher Heng, the Executive Director of CHI.

On the flip side, healthcare institutions too have their own struggles with innovation. Tan highlights the often long and arduous process innovation takes, from ideation all the way to product implementation. These challenges served as the impetus for CHI to create a platform to help to “accelerate innovation adoption at speed and scale”, Wong explains.

Through InnoMatch, the organisations whose proposals are shortlisted have the opportunity to speak with innovation and clinical leads from participating healthcare institutions. There, they can gain a deeper understanding of local clinical workflows and practical implementation considerations.

Shortlisted organisations then craft pitches based on the feedback from these interviews. After which, the winning proposals enter a 6-month test-bedding phase with partnered healthcare institutions and may receive additional funding to customise their products ahead of wide-scale implementation if proven successful.

The inaugural Healthcare InnoMatch was held just last year, and one of the winning proposals is already in the final stages of the test-bedding phase. The solution, named H-Man, is a portable robotic device that can assist with the rehabilitation of stroke patients. Once test-bedding is complete, patients will be able to perform rehabilitation exercises to regain mobility without having to leave their homes.

“Healthcare InnoMatch aims to progressively benefit public and private healthcare organisations across the health and social care sectors by introducing novel and useful solutions into practice,” Wong says. Tan adds that this would also help support the goal of healthcare institutions to transform and meet the future healthcare needs of the population.