After graduating with Masters of Engineering from National Technological University of Singapore, IHiS Lead Analyst Gurusamy Arul Prasath has spent his entire career implementing many large-scale public sector tech projects that serve the nation. In 2017, when he learnt that IHiS was looking for a project manager to implement the nation’s first ever Command, Control and Communications (C3) System in healthcare, he decided to take the leap to join HealthTech.
If healthcare professionals are the frontline soldiers in the war against pandemics such as COVID-19, then HealthTech professionals and the IT systems they build are the weapons and ammunitions in this fight.
“Evidence-based management decisions are vital in the healthcare system and IT projects are the enablers to provide such evidence,” said Gurusamy Arul Prasath, a Lead Analyst at IHiS.
In 2017, Arul was an established IT professional with over a decade of experience in implementing large-scale technology projects for the public sectors, including similar systems for Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). So when the opportunity to project manage the nation’s first ever C3 System in healthcare came, Arul took it to contribute to a meaningful purpose. A C3 system processes data from multiple source systems to present meaningful insights on a centralised video wall and operator dashboards to guide planning and decision making.
Building the Nation's First Ever C3 For Healthcare
Arul soon found that a C3 System for healthcare is a different beast. For starters, the system had to be built from scratch to meet day-to-day business and operational needs. His team, alongside staff from Tan Tock Seng Hospital, undertook a full requirement study to propose a scalable system architecture as C3 is meant to be deployed across Singapore’s public healthcare institutions that greatly vary in their requirements.
The goal was to build a system to provide decision makers a bird’s eye view of the ground situation so they could make informed decisions as quickly and as efficiently as possible. This means having real-time visibility on patient flow, staff deployment, inventory and more. The system should also be able to predict situations before they occur, through the use of advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence, and generate actionable insights such as how resources could be better allocated.
Fast forward two years to end 2019, C3 began its roll out at TTSH to much fanfare and the work continues.
In early 2020, COVID-19 infiltrated the nation’s shores and C3’s Disease Outbreak module was still in its infant stage.
Covid-19: How C3 Helped Stem the Tide
“The Disease Outbreak module was scheduled to be ready in September 2020. But with the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, our team had to deliver key widgets on a weekly basis,” explained Arul. “This was an opportunity to make full use of the C3 System to support healthcare professionals in saving lives.”
Within two months, Arul and his team accelerated the development of 34 key widgets to support the tracking of staff and patients in the hospital in real time to monitor patient and asset movement, pull in key data and information from existing source systems, such as the inventory of the usage rate of critical supplies (e.g. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare professionals) and turnaround time of laboratory and radiology test orders.
The team behind C3 also installed and linked up CCTVs at key access points into the hospital to monitor and count the number of people coming in as the nation went into DORSCON ORANGE, a disease outbreak level that requires heightened precautionary measures to minimise the risk of further virus transmission into the community. The team is further developing the video analytics module that conducts crowd counting and contact tracing by using image recognition.
Through the use of C3, TTSH staff were able to identify and arrest the escalating COVID-19 ground situation. In early February, due to a change in case definition criteria, there was a surge in the number of cases at TTSH’s screening center. Attendance was three times higher compared to previous days, and this corresponded to a related rise in-patient admissions into the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). Within 24 hours, because of the decision support provided by the C3 System, the team pulled together the manpower, equipment and other supporting resources to open five wards a NCID, and strengthened support at TTSH’s screening center.
“C3 is critical to the current situation,” said Arul. “It is special and meaningful to be part of the healthcare sector, especially in the present circumstances. Whatever role you play, be it a project manager, an analyst or a developer, you have a critical role in the ecosystem.”