Singapore ranked No. 3 in survey on use of AI in healthcare

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) - It lags behind China and Saudi Arabia in poll of medical professionals in 15 countries.

Healthcare professionals in Singapore are using artificial intelligence (AI) for clinical diagnosis more than their counterparts in most other countries, except China and Saudi Arabia.

Among the 15 countries surveyed for the Future Health Index by Dutch technology company Royal Philips, Singapore had, at 28 per cent, the third-highest percentage of healthcare professionals who said they use AI to improve diagnostic accuracy. The figure is above the overall average of 21 per cent among the countries, but behind China's 45 per cent and Saudi Arabia's 34 per cent.

Those with the lowest rates were the United States, with 10 per cent, and Australia and the Netherlands, both with 8 per cent.

In Singapore, however, AI is used more for administrative tasks, with 37 per cent of respondents saying that they used it for functions such as staffing and scheduling patient appointments.

To Ms Caroline Clarke, chief executive of Philips Asean Pacific, the regional arm of Royal Philips, this represents a missed opportunity to improve efficiency and accuracy in fields such as radiology.

She noted that AI could be used more in intensive care units, where it could help alert hospital staff to possible incidents quickly by detecting anomalies in patients' vital signs. This can help lower mortality rates, she added. The survey showed that the use of AI for flagging patient anomalies in Singapore was also low, at 26 per cent.

It also found that 20 per cent of healthcare professionals here feel their long-term job security is threatened by advancements in healthcare technologies such as AI and telehealth. This figure is higher than the 14 per cent average among the countries polled.

Ms Clarke said: "Technology will never replace the human touch, but AI can take over mundane tasks and free up medical professionals. This can help to improve precision, efficiency and speed, leading to better outcomes for patients."

The Future Health Index survey polled nearly 3,200 healthcare professionals from 15 countries, including 201 in Singapore. The other countries surveyed were Australia, Brazil, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United States.

Telehealth adoption was also the highest in China, at 89 per cent, and Saudi Arabia, at 75 per cent.

Singapore's adoption rate was 68 per cent, slightly higher than the overall average of 61 per cent. This could be due to different levels of patient demand in each country.

The survey, which also polled about 1,000 members of the public in each country, found that 44 per cent of respondents in China and 38 per cent in Saudi Arabia prefer remote digital consultations with their doctors for non-urgent care if given the choice. Only 27 per cent of patients in Singapore said likewise.

Mr Raymond Kang, director of building technologies and solutions at smart systems manufacturer Johnson Controls, said there could be various reasons why emerging markets such as China and Saudi Arabia have implemented new healthcare technologies more quickly than developed markets.

The difficulty of retrofitting existing buildings and changing existing behaviours in established hospitals could be one factor, he said. "Other factors, such as having the physical space to build new facilities, the right skills among healthcare professionals to leverage technology-driven solutions and attitudes towards technology adoption, may also widen or close the gap between different markets," he added.