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​Increasing efficiency with smart technology

SNEC aims to introduce a machine learning solution called the Appointment Scheduling Optimiser by the end of this year.

To shorten patients’ waiting times, which could be as long as 45 minutes on a busy day, SNEC is looking at streamlining processes by leveraging technology.

Patients typically have to take several tests before seeing the doctor. Currently, appointments are arranged on a first-come, first-served basis, and do not take into account the time needed for these tests. This means that a patient who needs only one test may be scheduled behind a patient who needs multiple tests.

With a new scheduling system that employs artificial intelligence (AI), known as the Appointment Scheduling Optimiser (ASO), available resources and the various tests that patients have to take are considered before the best possible schedule with minimal waiting times is set.

Simulations of the ASO have shown that waiting times can be reduced by half to about 20 minutes. However, this can vary for complex cases, which make up approximately 15 to 20% of all patients. Over time, the ASO can identify patterns from the data, such as the need to allocate a longer time for a particular group of patients like the elderly.

Through an optimised schedule, the staff’s workload can be better anticipated, and manpower resources more evenly and effectively allocated. For example, more staff will be deployed during the peak periods indicated by the ASO.

Developed by Singapore-based information, communications and technology company NCS, the ASO will eventually be utilised across all SingHealth institutions.