The National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) new building was officially opened today by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The 50,000 square metres building is a significant boost to NHCS’ capacity and capabilities in advancing cardiovascular medicine through patient care, research and education for better delivery of care. Over 37,000 heart outpatients have been seen at the new site since it started operations in March 2014.

Adjunct Professor Terrance Chua, Medical Director, NHCS, said: “The NHCS new building allows us to deliver care for the full spectrum of heart conditions all within the same building. Putting our clinicians, researchers, and educators together in a single building will increase opportunities for the exchange of ideas between clinicians and researchers, inspire our students and trainees to learn more about the entire spectrum of cardiac care, and make it easier for us to engage our patients in research. The added capacity will help to meet our nation’s future needs for tertiary cardiac care.”

Meeting the nation’s growing heart care needs

In anticipation of the cardiovascular demands of an ageing population, NHCS has ramped up its procedural and surgical facilities. The new building has three operating theatres and the capacity for six cardiac catheterisation labs. In 2013, NHCS handled close to 7,000 interventional and surgical procedures.

There is also a new short stay unit with a capacity of 24 beds for day procedures/surgeries such as coronary angiography and coronary angioplasty. This will help to free up more beds for patients with more severe heart conditions.

Aside from setting up a larger facility, NHCS has also built up its pool of healthcare professionals to support the expansion of services. The hospital’s manpower has increased by close to 40 per cent to over 1,200 staff since the new building began construction in 2010. 

To accelerate cardiovascular research, the new building has one and a half floors of dedicated space of 4,000 square metres. The National Heart Research Institute Singapore (NHRIS), a partnership between NHCS and Duke-NUS, was earlier launched by President Tony Tan in September 2014.

Enhancing patient care with technology

NHCS is committed to becoming a digital heart hospital that operates in a paper-less, filmless, chart-less and script-less environment.

A key process improvement is the 1 Queue 1 Bill system at NHCS. Patients can now go through their entire visit with just one slip with a single queue number and printed personalised journey, and they can make a consolidated payment at the end for their consultation, tests and medications. This saves them time in queuing and re-queuing. The 1 Queue 1 Bill project won NHCS the first prize at the Singapore Healthcare Management Congress 2014 poster competition in the Operations Category, which received more than 70 submissions in that category alone.

A survey done in August 2014 with 50 NHCS patients showed that 88 per cent of them felt that the 1 Queue 1 Bill system served them better at the NHCS new building. They responded in the survey that the new system has made clinic visits less confusing and more convenient, and that the personalised patient journey printed on their queue slips were a useful guide during their time at the NHCS outpatient clinics.

NHCS doctors now make their clinical notes electronically and these are synchronised with digital imaging scans and test reports to form an individual patient’s complete medical profile. This electronic system does away with the hassle of printing X-ray films and manual data entry of test results, thus saving patients crucial time and shortening the wait for their conditions to be analysed and diagnosed. This is made possible with the massive digitisation of pen-and-paper medical records for all heart patients at NHCS.

The effective integration of advanced information technology in the different areas of care delivery and day-to-day operations at NHCS has enhanced patient safety, convenience and comfort. For example, inpatient wards at NHCS have upgraded their medication dispensing systems to include automated cabinets and carts which help nurses quickly pick the right drugs for patients. Nurses will first scan a patient’s identification tag and the automated medication cart will open the box containing the correct medication for the patient.

NHCS received the HIMSS Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) Stage 6 award on 15 September 2014 for its use of advanced information technology in enhancing patient care. The HIMSS EMRAM is a global standard that measures the use of technology in healthcare institutions to push patient safety, care quality and efficiency to new heights. Stage 6, on a scale of 0 to 7, indicates significant capabilities.