The Chief Executive Officer of Speedoc, Dr Shravan Verma, shares why he believes the future of healthcare will be in the homes.
The Singapore healthcare landscape is in the midst of its next evolution.
Challenges such as an ageing population, slower workforce growth and rising medical costs, coupled with the widespread adoption of modern digital technologies in healthcare, has driven Singapore to transition towards a home-based care model.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which propelled the usage of telehealth and remote monitoring devices, only served to accelerate this shift in care delivery in the country.
One of the major enablers of home-based care in Singapore is virtual clinic and healthcare solutions platform Speedoc. Founded in 2017, Speedoc delivers a comprehensive range of medical care and services – such as doctor and nurse visits, video consultations, allergy and health screenings, virtual hospital wards, and remote health monitoring, among others – straight to the homes of their patients.
This shift towards healthcare at home is no surprise to Speedoc Chief Executive Officer and co-founder, Dr Shravan Verma.
Speaking to Hospital Management Asia (HMA), Dr Verma explained that patients who are treated at home have been shown to recover faster, as compared to being treated in the hospitals.
“From a clinical perspective, we have been encouraged that patients are advocating for (home-based care) themselves and asking to be admitted at home,” said Dr Verma.
“In addition, research and survey findings have also shown that given the same medical care and treatment, patients are recovering faster at home.”
Dr Verma added that the comfort in which the majority of people in Singapore are using digital technology has helped to drive acceptance of home-based healthcare service providers like Speedoc.
“Speedoc’s booking process and patient follow-ups tend to use technology and other digital means as a multiplier rather than as an anchor,” Dr Verma elaborated. “According to the Accenture Health and Life Sciences Experience Survey (2021), nearly half of respondents in Singapore are comfortable with using digital technology and artificial intelligence for clinical or treatment purposes, suggesting that many of them are willing to incorporate technologies into our healthcare experiences.
“The next step for us would then be to find a balance between quality of our platform and cost for our patients.
“From the provider point of view, we also became acutely aware of the pain points and challenges when it came to decentralised care. We enhanced the sophistication of our logistics and processes in order to improve provider-patient matching. This is something that we are excited about because it’s an opportunity to leverage cloud-based systems to make our platforms more accessible for our patients.”
Earlier this year, Speedoc’s H-Ward® virtual hospital programme was accepted by the Singapore government for a two-year pilot trial.
The Speedoc H-Ward® virtual hospital is an integrated platform monitored by a dedicated 24/7 patient-care team that standardises and combines different services needed for hospital care at home. H-Ward® includes 24/7 monitoring by a joint care team and provides added convenience to patients who may not necessarily need to be admitted into a hospital. Under this programme, patients can recover at home through a hybrid approach which includes physical and virtual doctors’ rounds by video consultation, as well as the use of remote monitoring devices to take vitals.
Dr Verma is confident that this service will help to ease the heavy workload on healthcare providers in Singapore, as he said: “Speedoc’s partnerships with acute and community hospitals aim to improve clinical outcomes for patients through research, data analysis and constant reviewing of the processes.
“This enables us to continuously improve, ensuring that patients experience a seamless and safe transition from hospital to home, and achieve better post-discharge outcomes by leveraging health tech alternatives.
“Banking on our expertise in decentralised care, we also constantly push the boundaries of care from hospital to homes. While H-Ward® enables patients and caregivers to receive hospital-level care, within the comfort of their homes, it also supports the hospitals as we help take some load off so that they can attend to cases which are more serious.
“Following the successful pilot with National University Health System (NUHS) and the launch of H-Ward®, we are taking that conversation further to explore how we can expand and refine this concept.”
When asked how Speedoc ensures that the quality of care provided to patients is of a requisite level, while keeping costs manageable, Dr Verma replied: “We constantly encourage discussions and tools to promote efficiency and effectiveness.
“By leveraging technology to weave automation into our daily tasks, it greatly reduces operating costs which translates to cost savings for our end users: patients, caregivers and people who engage us for preventive health services.
“Our decentralised model also provides us with the platform and opportunity to review and maximise our logistics workflow. This includes mapping out our delivery routes in an effective manner to optimise every trip whilst ensuring we deliver our medication on time.
“In addition, our doctors and nurses across the island are always ready to help. They are notified of a new request immediately via our integrated app, which greatly reduces the waiting time involved for the users. Our objective has always been to provide care at affordable rates, in an accessible manner, whilst providing added convenience which includes the elimination of long queues at the taxi stand, registration counter, and pharmacies.”
The popularity and success of Speedoc – which also operates in Malaysia – over the past five years has given Dr Verma the confidence to start planning for an expansion of their operations beyond Singapore this year.
“We will continue trying to make healthcare more accessible and affordable to patients beyond Singapore,” said Dr Verma. “A virtual hospital can transcend geographical boundaries, so we intend to challenge hospitals’ traditional, facility-based model by working towards bringing healthcare from hospital to home.
“Introducing a full range of healthcare services to a patient’s home means helping to reduce hospital footfall and patient waiting times while maximising cost savings for the patient.”
In the long-run, however, Speedoc hopes to be able to offer a more advanced level of care to their patients.
Said Dr Verma: “One of the bigger challenges that lie ahead is increasing the sophistication of our healthcare service offerings, not limited only to clinical capabilities of our doctors and nurses in providing more advanced care, but also imbibing services provided by allied care providers such as mental health and counselling services; or even mobile radiology or other diagnostic imaging services.
“A significant consequence of home care and digital health being so nascent is that advanced technology does exist but continues to remain out of reach for many patients due to the lack of access and/or affordability. Tight import/export regulations regarding medical devices and registration are barriers to entry which currently limit access to pilot trials, hence giving this chance to a select few patients.”
Ultimately, though, Dr Verma believes that for Speedoc to remain relevant to the community amidst the ever-changing healthcare landscape in Singapore, they will have to continuously innovate, while establishing and strengthening relationships with relevant stakeholders.
“As a digital healthcare provider, Speedoc will continue to innovate and cultivate a synergised relationship between healthcare providers, community partners, and the public healthcare system,” said Dr Verma.
“We predict that with the new focus on value-based healthcare, our healthcare system will shift towards right-siting care, and preventive and population health will no doubt be a huge part of this.
“This includes consistent reviewing of existing processes to ensure healthcare remains affordable and accessible by members of the public whilst availing new services that can be administered to patients within the comfort of their home.
“We also intend to continue working with educational institutions to pilot programmes and support their research efforts for the evolution of products and services so that these can be better tailored to the needs of the community.”
Join Dr Shravan Verma and other healthcare experts for an online discussion on the future of home-based care in Singapore on May 25, 3-4pm (SGT) – click here to register for the free webinar today!