Since last month, the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has been comparing how its patients fare after complex surgery against the experiences of those at 700 other hospitals.

The US system looks at 150 different data generated for each patient.

Using data analytics this way, SGH said it can identify what more the hospital can do to improve patient outcome.

Dr Tan Hiang Khoon, chairman of SGH's Division of Surgery, said: "The data enables us to continuously identify areas for outcome improvement by reducing complications. This will in turn translate to shorter lengths of stay, lower readmission rates, lower costs and more lives saved."

Data analytics can "add immense value to the provision of healthcare", Permanent Secretary for Health Chan Heng Kee said when he opened the Singapore Healthcare Management Congress at Marina Bay Sands yesterday.

He said using such a tool will allow healthcare providers to "really make a breakthrough and achieve excellence in healthcare".

Some public hospitals here are already using data analytics to identify patients who require frequent admissions and proactively reach out to them to offer preventive or early interventions that will keep their condition stable. This reduces their need to be readmitted.

With advances in computing power, "healthcare institutions can now collect and combine rich healthcare, social and even lifestyle data, and analyse them for insights".

Mr Chan also told an audience of about 1,000 healthcare professionals from the region that excellent healthcare is not just about treating patients with the latest drugs, state-of-the-art interventions or specialists.

"What is important to patients is the outcome they seek and the outcome they value. To some, this may be about being well enough to live at home, return to work or study, or enjoy the food or activities they relish."

To give patients the outcomes they want means finding out what is important to them. For some, it could be about being able to walk independently without pain again.

SGH has been collecting data for years on whether patients who undergo surgery for total knee replacement are able to perform daily functions that matter most to them .

With that data, it has been able to better monitor and help patients recover after surgery. It has since extended such data collection to other types of surgery, such as for spine, foot and ankle, said Mr Chan.

"If we can help patients achieve their goals, we are providing excellent healthcare, even if the treatments are basic," he said.

Changi General Hospital includes other professionals to offer patients "coordinated nursing services, psycho-social support, rehabilitation care and medical follow- ups", he said.

While some countries have pockets of outstanding institutions, with excellent doctors and treatments, such care is only for a small number of privileged patients.

For healthcare to be truly excellent, it has to be offered to the entire population on a consistent basis at affordable rates for both patient and the state.

This is why the Ministry of Health (MOH) is looking at the value of different treatments, with the help of health technology. Some new treatments might cost tens of thousands of dollars, but give little additional benefit.

The ministry has no plans to blindly cut costs or restrict choices. Instead, Mr Chan said, MOH wants to "identify and spread best practices, narrow unnecessary variances and reduce inefficiencies".