October 2016 | Issue 26
New centre for primary care advances research and patient care

With more people living longer and many living with multiple chronic diseases, Singapore’s primary healthcare system faces not only a challenge, but a unique opportunity to advance the level of care and expertise in this field. Seizing this opportunity, LKCMedicine and the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP) announced the formation of the Centre for Primary Health Care Research & Innovation on 23 September.

Announced during the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Singapore Health & Biomedical Congress (SHBC), the new centre is one of three initiatives announced that day that will deliver better healthcare and fight infectious diseases.

During his Opening Address, the Guest-of-Honour at SHBC Minister of State for Health and Communication & Information Mr Chee Hong Tat said, “Our polyclinics, family medicine clinics and GPs are the first line of care for our population. We need to also establish a strong relationship between our primary care providers and their patients, so that they can help their patients to achieve better health outcomes. It is timely that the Centre will undertake research in the important areas of chronic disease management, including the evaluation of new technologies, and how to empower patients.”

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Guest-of-Honour at SHBC Minister of State for Health and Communication & Information Mr Chee Hong Tat delivering his opening address.

Jointly helmed by NHGP and LKCMedicine, the Centre will look at introducing new technologies and innovative ways of delivering quality family medicine and primary care for patients, including better management of patients with chronic and multiple diseases and support for their caregivers. It will also develop medical practitioners who are active in research to be more aware of the latest developments in the field of family medicine.

LKCMedicine Dean Professor James Best said, “Together with NHG, we are investing in the future health of Singapore’s ageing population. The new Centre for Primary Health Care Research and Innovation aims to promote family medicine and primary care as an academic specialty, to deliver the best evidence-based medical care using the latest innovations.”

To boost this effort, LKCMedicine has appointed Professor Helen Smith as Professor of Family Medicine & Primary Care. She has more than 20 years of experience in academic general practice in the UK and Canada, and most recently was the Foundation Chair of Primary Care and Head of the Division of Public Health & Primary Care at the then-newly established Brighton & Sussex Medical School in the UK. One of the leading exponents of Primary Care Research Networks, Prof Smith has an extensive track record of developing such networks in the UK, Netherlands, Canada, Thailand and Australia.

LKCMedicine is committed to advancing the discipline of academic family medicine in Singapore and Prof Smith, working alongside Associate Professor Chong Phui-Nah, NHGP CEO, will be a key driver behind this, aiming to start a network of Primary Care Practitioners to enthuse and involve family physicians in rigorous research that can be applied for the benefit of all patients.

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LKCMedicine and NHGP celebrates a successful opening the Centre for Primary Health Care Research & Innovation and two other initiatives

Speaking at the sidelines of SHBC, Prof Smith and Assoc Prof Chong elaborated on the central role of family medicine in an effective and efficient healthcare system and the need for more holistic research that the Centre will focus on.

Assoc Prof Chong said, “Primary care is the cornerstone for population health. We know that primary care has a strong influence on health outcomes, so it is really important to focus our research efforts in this area.”

A strong primary care system has been proven to reduce hospital admissions and A&E visits, in particular inappropriate ones. It is also the only field of care that follows people throughout their life, providing continuity and familiarity.

One of the biggest challenges facing primary care in Singapore is the increasingly complex need of its ageing population and how to best manage that. Prof Smith said, “Providing care for the ageing population that recognises that there are many problems, multi-morbidities, requires research that is patient-centred and not focused on single diseases, because in real life that is not what happens.”