​Professor David Matchar and his team from the Health Services and Systems Research (HSSR) Programme at Duke-NUS bagged two prestigious awards at the International Stroke Conference 2021 for their project on a randomised controlled trial investigating the effects of incentives on improving the uptake of outpatient rehabilitation services (ORS) among stroke patients in Singapore.

Prof Matchar received the Stroke Rehabilitation Award from the American Stroke Association, which recognises the best original research in clinical rehabilitation and recovery strategies.

His team also clinched the Paul Dudley White International Scholar Award for submitting the highest ranked abstract from Singapore. Named after one of the founders of the American Heart Association who championed global cardiovascular health strategies, the award recognises work which reflects Dr. White’s vision for global excellence in cardiovascular science and medicine. 

Prof Matchar, who is also a consultant at the Singapore General Hospital’s Department of Internal Medicine, received the awards on behalf of the team at the Association’s annual conference which was held online from 17 to 19 March 2021.

Prof Matchar credits the work of Professor Gerald Koh, who now is a professor at NUS' Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health as inspiration. 

“I was impressed by [his] work at NUS on the underuse of rehabilitation services in Singapore and observation that the key barriers were inconvenience and cost. This led my team to show in an economic analysis how improved ORS uptake could actually be cost saving for the Singapore healthcare system.  So, this project was the logical next step—how to improve uptake by addressing the barriers,” said Prof Matchar. 

In the award-winning study, Prof Matchar and his team aimed to determine if the relatively low uptake of ORS in Singapore could be improved if patients were given incentives. A total of 266 participants from the stroke and acute rehabilitation units of two tertiary hospitals in Singapore were recruited for the study.

The team evaluated two types of incentives, which focused on increasing the convenience for patients through the provision of coordinated transportation and eliminating out-of-pocket costs for ORS sessions attended by patients.

They found that when both incentives were offered, an overall improvement in the uptake of ORS was observed, in contrast with patients in a control group who were offered a stroke rehabilitation educational programme instead of incentives.

Their findings highlight the potential for providing incentives in health policies relating to the management of patients with chronic health conditions such as stroke.

Professor Thomas Coffman, Dean of Duke-NUS, said, “We are extremely proud of this prestigious and well-deserved recognition of Professor David Matchar and his team. David has spent his career doing research to improve medical practice, with a special interest in care of patients who have suffered strokes.  This is a terrific example of the impactful work he is doing as an exemplary clinician scientist, to improve primary care services for Singaporeans with chronic health conditions.”

This is the latest distinction in Prof Matchar’s clinical research career, which spans over three decades. Over the course of his career, he has focused on interdisciplinary clinical work and public policy analysis primarily on the management of disabling neurological disorders such as stroke.

He was awarded the STaR Investigator Award by the National Medical Research Council for his work on a systems model that addressed the crucial strategic and operational challenges presented by a rapidly ageing population. He also serves as a consultant for areas in clinical policy development, and for specific projects relating to stroke. Most recently, he has expanded his focus to address the long-term health and systems consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.