Healthcare is rapidly transforming with AI and IoT.

23 December 2018

Across the world, healthcare systems are under tremendous pressure. While some countries face a growing population, others have a rapidly ageing one that requires services that existing infrastructure is inadequate to provide.

In Singapore, the demand for healthcare services is expanding as the country greys. By 2030, those aged 65 and older will double in number. Diseases such as diabetes and stroke will rise significantly from two decades ago.

The government expects to spend S$13 billion on healthcare by 2020, up from just S$3.74 billion in 2010 and S$10 billion in 2017.

The rising costs and complexities of providing healthcare in the years ahead are driving many in the industry to look into digital transformation.

With a finite number of hospitals and professionals to scale up with, the key is using technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to change how healthcare is delivered.

Wearables today can provide doctors with the kind of patient data they never had before, enabling them to proactively diagnose patients before they head to a hospital for treatment.

AI, meanwhile, has been helping to process the tremendous amounts of data, from scans to treatment reports, to identify disease patterns. This enables more accurate diagnosis that leads to the right treatment.

AI and IoT would help work towards the three strategies that the Singapore government has identified in its 2017 industry transformation roadmap.

  • Beyond healthcare to health

Being healthy begins with being aware of one’s health. Through increasingly easy-to-use IoT health sensors, citizens have easy access to their own health data so they are empowered to make important decisions on staying fit and healthy.

  • Beyond hospital to community

Through IoT devices at home, seniors can actively provide data that may offer clues to an onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s. This is possible as AI can be used to find patterns in the data, even in small activities like forgetting to close a fridge or hang up on a phone call.

  • Beyond quality to value

AI will also help alleviate the manpower crunch in the industry, by multiplying the capabilities of healthcare professionals. By analysing, say, the medical records of a patient, AI can provide insights to any doctor, improving his delivery of primary care.

The promise of IoT and AI, however, does face challenges. Like all industries embracing transformation, the healthcare sector has to overcome some familiar obstacles.

The first would be handling and making use of the enormous amount of patient data. Having the data is a start, but organising, preparing and making it easily searchable will require much more effort, time and cost.

How does the industry share medical records in an industry that has traditionally locked them away in silos? Without global standards and protocols, such as the EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), often used in supply chains in the past, the industry may have to find new ways to connect and exchange information.

For AI to be able to produce meaningful insights, it also has to learn and find patterns from the large sets of data. It has to first be told where to start before it is loaded with more sets of data to learn from.

Related to this is the data protection that is required for such sensitive information. Besides making sure that only relevant information is shared, healthcare organisations also have to be wary of the scourge of cyber attacks.

The challenges may seem colossal to overcome, yet the rewards of combining AI and IoT successfully are also immense.

For the first time, IoT devices such as wearables are making telemedicine more common, ensuring that information is readily available to healthcare providers for diagnosis and treatment.

As this is happening, AI now offers new insights that are transforming how patients are receiving care. By combining the knowledge available through machine learning and a doctor’s acumen learned from years of experience, the future of healthcare will see improvements not thought possible.

Never before has such a confluence of innovative breakthroughs presented such an opportunity to address today’s issues. It is just as well that this is happening as these innovations are needed most.

For many healthcare organisations, the temptation may be to draw up an elaborate plan before finding a way to digitally transform. An alternative is to start small and find a solution to small everyday problems before attempting to overcome grand challenges.

This could be the first step to transforming how healthcare is delivered and solving many of the issues facing the industry today.

For more information on how StarHub can help to enable AI solutions in your organisation, please visit

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