With restrictions on classroom sizes during this COVID-19 season, A/Prof Tan Ngiap Chuan is championing a unique platform to continue training for nurses in SingHealth Polyclinics. 

Acute Respiratory Distress (ARS) is a common symptom seen at SingHealth Polyclinics (SHP), and is often related to acute asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is also a symptom of the COVID-19 infection.

"Walk-in patients with ARS are often quite distressed: they are breathless, often gasping for air and can hardly speak," says Clinical Associate Professor Tan Ngiap Chuan, Family Physician and Vice Chair of Research, Family Medicine Academic Clinical Programme (FM ACP). "To optimise patient care, a select group of nurses are trained to identify these symptoms and provide some form of immediate relief even before a doctor attends to these patients."

However, due to their hectic work schedule, not many nurses can attend the training each year. With the added restrictions due to COVID-19, A/Prof Tan is working on an innovation project to develop a virtual training platform that leverages augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) to train nurses on detecting patients with ARS.

The proposed platform aims to reach far beyond the traditional classroom-style training, by using a smartphone to provide an interactive and hands-on experience to the learner. "We want to transform the traditional way we provide training for healthcare professionals to one of remote, personalised training and assessment," explained A/Prof Tan. "The use of a smartphone will enable nurses across the eight polyclinics to complete the training at their own pace without disrupting their daily duties and responsibilities." A/Prof Tan added that Tthe use of VR and AI provides an extra dimension by varying patient profiles through a variety of audio and visual cues. This simulates a more realistic environment that can be customised, and will help nurses hone-in on the required skills and competencies to provide rescue therapy.

By participating individually instead of in a group on a virtual platform, trainers can track the progress of each learner and identify gaps for timely rectification. Trainers can also leverage on the virtual clinical examination platform to conduct summative assessments of multiple learners simultaneously and with accuracy.

"Ultimately, we want to train more frontline healthcare professionals to manage patients with ARS," said A/Prof Tan. "When this new virtual training platform proves successful, we plan to expand its use to other programmes within SingHealth. We can even partner external stakeholders such as hospitals, medical and nursing schools, paramedics and military healthcare services in its use," he added.

To support this innovation, SHP is holding an online auction titled, ‘Singapore: Surprises, Surreal, Significance’. The auction features 55 photos of Singapore and local wildlife donated by patients of SHP who want to support the project. Money raised through the auction will go towards the FM ACP Family Health Research Fund.

If you would like to support SHP in this effort to chart new heights in education innovation, please click here or scan the QR code in the poster below to start bidding. Alternatively, if you would like to contribute to the project directly, please email to givingtoshp@singhealth.com.sg or call 6350-7549 / 6350-7520.