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Launch of Prehospital Emergency and Research Centre (PERC) in Singapore

SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre launched the Prehospital Emergency and Research Centre (PERC) to work towards integrating prehospital, in-hospital, and community care in Singapore.

A new Prehospital and Emergency Research Centre (PERC) was recently set up this September in Singapore, in a collaborative effort between the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medicine Centre, National Healthcare Group, National University Health System, the Unit for Prehospital Emergency Care of the Ministry of Health Singapore (MOH), and the Singapore Civil Defence Force from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). PERC will work towards integrating pre-hospital, in-hospital, and community care, through conducting research and studying clinical data.

Emergency care spans across prehospital care to the medical care provided by dedicated trauma facilities, including the steps in between. Prehospital care refers to the treatment provided by emergency medical services (EMS) responders, who are usually the first to arrive at scenes of emergencies, before the patient reaches the hospital. This is a vital step in ensuring patient survival and requires great expertise from EMS responders, but its significance can easily be overlooked as most parties focus on the treatments provided when patients are admitted to hospitals.

Professor Marcus Ong, Director of the Health Services and Systems Research Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School and the Director of PERC, explains that “emergency care covers a range of services, from the care provided by laypersons at the scene to that provided in a dedicated emergency facility. Between these two stages lie what we call the ‘chain of survival’ — patient survival depends on how well each component functions.” The Health Services and Systems Research Programme, led by Professor Ong, hosts the new PERC.

As Singapore continues to face the challenge of an ageing population, the importance of prehospital care also increases. The number of individuals, particularly elderly, who suffer from chronic diseases continues rising steadily, in a trend that is like to continue. Older patients also tend to require longer stays and more admissions in hospital, and a lower proportion of the elderly are ambulant and physically independent today as compared to in the past. To cope with these trends and to improve Singapore’s prehospital emergency care system in general, the PERC was established with the aim to help the healthcare system achieve the best possible patient outcomes.

Research at PERC will cover a wide range of disciplines, going beyond medicine, paramedicine, epidemiology and public health, to fields such as statistics, computer science, artificial intelligence health economics, social sciences, psychology, industrial engineering and global health. PERC aims to not only become an academic and research hub but is also envisioned as a future national and regional resource in terms of prehospital emergency care and research.

“Increasing evidence indicates the benefits of a well-functioning prehospital care system. To develop and enhance the capacity to provide effective emergency care, it is essential to view such care in the context of the overall health system rather than as a discrete and independent silo,” explained Professor Ong. “PERC will be focused on advancing research in the Prehospital and Emergency fields, and improving Singapore’s prehospital emergency care system for the betterment of the professionals in this field and the patients they serve.”

The launch event of PERC included presentations by experts from the University of Michigan and Singapore’s MHA, SCDF and the National University Health System (NUHS), on research and strategies for the improvement of prehospital and emergency care in Singapore and abroad. There was also a panel discussion on “Emerging Needs of Prehospital and Emergency Care in Singapore”.

Prehospital emergency care is a key component in healthcare systems that can determine patient outcomes. Several countries in the Asia-Pacific region are also experiencing population aging, and it is estimated that by 2050, one in four people in the region will be 60 years old or older, which will likely increase the relevance and importance of prehospital and emergency care. The launch of PERC in Singapore is therefore rather timely and will likely benefit many countries in the Asia-Pacific region. [APBN]