Case Studies

Meeting the Challenges of Healthcare Reform in Singapore


Asian American Medical Group Partners with UPMC to Deliver Quality Organ Transplantation

A 1984 plan that allowed Singapore’s hospitals more autonomy and patients greater choice resulted in a shift toward hospital privatization and greater demands to improve the quality of care for patients.  Singapore-based Asian American Medical Group (AAMG), one of Asia’s foremost liver centers dedicated to the treatment of liver and gastrointestinal diseases, engaged UPMC to help it meet this challenge.

These two organizations collaborated to develop Asia’s first private comprehensive transplant center to treat liver, kidney and bone marrow diseases; UPMC was also asked to provide clinical oversight, strategically promote the group’s capabilities and ensure that AAMG was delivering the best evidence-based medicine.

Challenges of a World-Renowned Health Care System
The health care system in Singapore, often heralded as one the world’s best, has served as a high-quality medical hub for all of Southeast Asia for decades. Its success has been attributed in large part to a national health plan introduced by the Ministry of Health in 1984 that allowed hospitals more autonomy and privatized insurance, giving individuals greater control, increasing personalized services for patients and improving the overall quality of care.

However, with greater demands from patients,, hospitals were challenged by increased competition for talent and labor; ever-increasing complexity and costs associated with advancing technology, equipment, treatment and training; and new requirements to establish independent standards of care and reliable processes to measure outcomes.

To meet these challenges head-on, Singapore-based AAMG reached out to best-in-class institutions around the world, including UPMC, to collaborate. “UPMC was honored to be asked to partner with AAMG, whose innovative transplantation work and stellar reputation in Asia made it an attractive match,” said Charles Bogosta, president of UPMC International.

Enhancing an Already Successful Operation
Frecovery roomormerly the Asian Centre for Liver Diseases and Transplantation (ACLDT), AAMG is one of Asia’s foremost liver centers today. Established in 1994, the Centre attracts about 8,000 patients annually from southern Asia, the Middle East and Russia. Through the subsidiary Asian American Liver Centre, AAMG also serves as an important referral center for treating acute liver failure and performing liver transplants.

AAMG is led by renowned hepatobiliary expert and liver transplant surgeon Dr. Tan Kai Chah (K. C. Tan), who has performed some of the world’s most noteworthy and pioneering work in the field, including the first split-liver transplant from a single donor to two recipients. Although AAMG was well-regarded, Dr. Tan recognized that collaborating with UPMC would allow him to take the Centre further.

Collaborating to Take the Centre Further

In the beginning, the UPMC-AAMG partnership focused on the establishment of Asia’s first dedicated comprehensive transplantation center, specializing in transplant immunology, organ transplant and infectious diseases. The partnership also featured the addition of an intensive care unit (ICU) for immunosuppressed patients with liver, kidney and bone marrow diseases.

Furthermore, UPMC was tasked with assisting AAMG in expanding its international patient base, utilizing the comprehensive transplant center in Singapore as a “hub” that would support a network of clinics in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries.

Accomplishing More Together
Almost immediately, the partnership began achieving important milestones. First, AAMG successfully established the Asian American Blood and Marrow Transplant Centre to treat patients with blood cancers and disorders. The partnership also produced a second-opinion clinical diagnosis pathology program that allowed the medical teams in Singapore to share medical records and images with UPMC physicians in Pittsburgh, PA, United States, and Palermo, Italy.

These successes led to additional collaborations on clinical and translational research projects, the adoption of more innovative surgical procedures and advanced nurse and physician education.

“An incredible mutual respect and trust developed between the teams,” said Cheryl Brill, UPMC’s vice president of International Clinical Operations and quality and operations leader for the Singapore-based initiative. “We were able to have meaningful conversations about clinical outcomes and changes in clinical practice to elevate patient care, as well as UPMC practices that could be adapted to local needs. These steps enabled the collaboration to meet the changing demands of the citizens of Singapore and respond to increased expectations for the best quality care possible.”

“An incredible mutual respect and trust developed between the teams. We were able to have meaningful conversations about clinical outcomes, potential changes to practice approach and shared best practices.”

– Cheryl Brill, UPMC Vice President of International Clinical Operations

Promises of Further Growth from a Steadfast Commitment to Asia
Since entering into the collaboration, AAMG’s partnership with UPMC remains strong. While the end-goal of enhancing the Centre and expanding its transplantation capabilities has remained constant, the teams have been able to adjust priorities to respond to the continually evolving health care market in Singapore.

To promote the advancements in the health care market, AAMG and Pittsburgh-based Center for Connected Medicine collaborated on a symposium titled “Translational Medicine: The Intersection of Big Data and Precision Medicine.” International health care experts from 10 different countries joined together to explore conversations around the current and future state of health care. The shared objective was to create a venue for international networking opportunities, and highlight discussions around key topics such as population health management and natural language processing. Through continued shared efforts, the partnership between AAMG and UPMC will bring new opportunities for growth and advancement to health care industry.

“UPMC brought the reputation, technology, equipment, clinical prowess and management leadership needed to help us elevate the Centre and distinguish ourselves in our markets.”

– Dr. Tan Kai Chah, AAMG Executive Chairman

“We are delighted with the collaboration with UPMC, as are our patients, community and shareholders. The relationship exceeded our expectations,” Dr. Tan emphasized. “UPMC brought the reputation, technology, equipment, clinical prowess and management leadership needed to help us elevate the Centre and distinguish ourselves in our markets.”

“Through our collaboration and integration, we were pleased to be able to help AAMG expand its transplantation capabilities and deliver world-class health care truly focused on patients,” Bogosta said. “We are looking forward to continuing our work to provide comprehensive care for patients in Singapore and the region.”

To view the full version of his case study, please click here.