SINGAPORE - Some patients now have the option of being hospitalised at home instead of a hospital ward.
Suitable patients are those with general medical conditions such as skin infections, urinary tract infections or even Covid-19.
They will be cared for by a team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and therapists via a combination of teleconsultations and home visits.
Patients will receive similar clinical care to what they would receive in hospital, such as intravenous medication and blood tests, as well as 24/7 access to the care team until they are fit to be discharged.
Should the patient's condition deteriorate, he can be transferred to a hospital.
This new care model, announced on Thursday, increases a patient's comfort, reduces hospital acquired infections, improves manpower efficiency and increases bed capacity without the need to build more inpatient wards in hospitals.
This is especially important as Singapore's population ages, leading to a growing demand for inpatient care with insufficient manpower to staff wards.
Called the Mobile Inpatient Care @ Home (MIC@Home), feasibility studies for the care model were conducted by the National University Health System (NUHS) and Yishun Health Medical Home between 2019 and 2021.
Pilot trials showed that home hospitalisation is effective and safe for selected patients.
With the success of the initial trials, the Ministry of Health Office for Healthcare Transformation expanded the programme's implementation.
It is now available at three sites: NUHS (NUHS@Home), Singapore General Hospital (SGH@Home) and Yishun Health Medical Home.
Patients on the programme will receive subsidies similar to those in hospitals as the scheme comes under a regulatory and financing sandbox supported by the Ministry of Health.
Patients hospitalised at home can expect a bill similar to that if they were to stay in a hospital.
The expanded trials under this sandbox started in April 2022 and are set to conclude by March 2024.
The sandbox has the capacity to take care of about 2,000 patients over two years at the three sites and more public hospitals will be roped into the programme later.
The sandbox was announced in Parliament during the Ministry of Health Committee of Supply Debate in March 2022.
Mr Lai Yi Feng, senior manager and project lead of MIC@Home, said: "As the provision of healthcare continues to shift from hospital to the home and community, structural change and reorganisation of care delivery are pivotal.
"We recognise that it is not for everyone and there are patients who would still prefer to be cared for in a hospital environment. These are the patients that we will need to slowly work on to change their mindsets."
He added: "Those who are willing to try this care model, and those with confidence in the care team and the technologies that we have, these are the kinds of patients that we are targeting at this point."
Similar established care models in places like Australia, Europe and the United States have shown equivalent clinical outcomes as ward hospitalisations.
Patients recovering at home also reported sleeping and eating better, walking around more and perceived their recovery to be quicker.
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