IT takes a village to raise a child, states a traditional African proverb. A child has the best ability to become a healthy adult if the entire village or community takes an active role in contributing to the rearing of the child. Likewise, it now takes a team to heal the sick. Especially the chronic sick, the aged, and the infirm. The “team” should include not just doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, but also family members, caregivers and social workers. This is all the more necessary today than ever before. That’s because the nature of modern sickness is transforming the nurture requirements of chronically-ill patients. The four key ailments that commonly afflict Singaporeans are diabetes, cancer, dementia and stroke. Given the range and sophistication of treatments available, most patients diagnosed with these diseases are more likely to survive – than die – over a prolonged period. The top three leading causes of death in Singapore are cancers (about 30 per cent of all deaths), pneumonia (19 per cent) and heart diseases (17 per cent), according to the Ministry of Health. Take diabetes for example. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), Singapore has the second-highest proportion – after the US – of diabetics among developed countries. The IDF states that 10.53 per cent of people in Singapore (10.75 per cent in the US) between 20 and 79 years of age may have diabetes. Indeed, diabetes emerged as a key topic in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally Speech in August. He noted that one in nine Singaporeans has diabetes today; 30 per cent of Singaporeans over age 60 have been diagnosed with it, primarily Type 2. Most diabetics need long-term care to control the disease. As for cancer, it is no longer a killer disease; it’s now a chronic ailment. Over the last 35 years, the proportion of males who survived cancer by at least five years has jumped from 13.2 per cent in 1973 to 48.5 per cent in 2012. Five-year survival rates for females has more than doubled from 28 per cent in 1973 to 57 per cent in 2012. The survival rates for breast cancer, the most common cancer in women in Singapore, are higher than Europe and China. Dementia affects one in 10 people aged 60 and above in Singapore, according to a WiSE (Well-being of the Singapore Elderly) survey that was released in March 2015. The three-year study polled 5,000 seniors and their family members and noted that dementia caregivers reported significantly higher levels of distress and psychological problems compared to caregivers of patients with other ailments. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and first leading cause of disability in Singapore. A BMC (BioMed Central) survey in 2013 found that just under 60 per cent of stroke patients survived for five years. About 20 per cent were re-hospitalised due to stroke recurrence in five years. Another study notes that stroke is probably the largest cause of long-term disability in Singapore. In all these cases, chronically-ill patients need frequent monitoring and almost immediate interventionist care if their condition worsens. This is only possible in a teamcare scenario. Teams offer the potential to achieve more than any one person can achieve working alone. Teambased care was aptly the theme at the two-day HIMSS Asia-Pacific conference in Singapore in September. HIMSS, which stands for Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, is a non-profit body and promotes ICT usage and innovation in the healthcare industry globally. Integrated Health Information Systems (IHIS) supports 50,000 healthcare users in Singapore’s public healthcare sector. “Team-based care will help us move from siloed care to orchestrated care, and from professionallydirected care to consumer-empowered care,” Bruce Liang, IHIS CEO and MoH CIO said in his keynote address. “We’re putting in place an ecosystem of collaborators across various industries to co-create Smart Health solutions to transform healthcare and improve population health.” The game-changer is IT. Three technologies – data analytics, IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (artificial intelligence) – are starting to be deployed to move the needle on tech-enabled healthcare. At the core is collaboration, especially among teams that care for specific patients. If there is one measurable outcome that teams could impact, it would be medical errors. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), medical errors is estimated to be the third most common cause of death in the US. “Teamwork failures (failures in communication) account for up to 70-80% of serious medical errors,” the AMA Journal of Ethics reported in its September 2016 issue. “The shift to providing care in teams is well founded given the potential for improved performance that comes with teamwork.” Teams offer the promise to improve clinical care because they can aggregate, modify, combine and apply a greater amount and variety of knowledge to make decisions, solve problems, generate ideas and execute tasks more efficiently than any individual working alone. Given this potential, a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals could ideally work together to determine diagnoses, develop care plans, conduct procedures, provide appropriate followup, and generally provide quality care for patients, the AMA notes. The bottomline: It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a team to heal the sick. It takes IT to enable the team to collaborate in healthcare.