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Startup helps patients reduce waiting time for MRI scans from 3 months to 3 days

SINGAPORE — Patients who wish to go for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans at public hospitals may sometimes have to wait for three months to get a slot.

An MRI scanner.

An MRI scanner.

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SINGAPORE — Patients who wish to go for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans at public hospitals may sometimes have to wait for three months to get a slot.

Thanks to local start-up Optimimed, the waiting time can be reduced to three days.

While public hospitals often find their MRI centres fully booked for months, some private centres have excess capacity.

What Optimimed does is to redirect public hospital patients to private centres that can offer a shorter waiting time, without them having to pay extra costs.

Co-founder of Optimimed, Ms Liu Yueh Mei, 45, said: “If a doctor cannot book an MRI slot in time for the patients, this will delay treatment and everything is pushed back.

“We wanted to create a sustainable solution and reduce waiting time for patients to do MRI scans, without increasing healthcare cost.”

Optimimed currently partners with seven private imaging centres at 11 locations and two public hospitals — Ng Teng Fong and Khoo Teck Puat General Hospitals.

Explaining how it works, Ms Liu said: “If for various reasons, the patient is unable to get an MRI slot in time, the radiology department would refer the patient to the Optimimed staff stationed at the department and a confirmed appointment will be given on the spot.”

The patient can then decide on the preferred slot for the scan.

“We will make some arrangements with the imaging centre and provide an appointment card. Then, we will send the patient a message with the location, address and details,” Ms Liu said.

The patient also pays directly at the hospital he is receiving treatment at.

“They enjoy the full subsidy grants, (they can) use their Medisave, insurance claims and so on. It makes it easier when everything is integrated in the system (of the public hospital). They do not have to pay from their pockets at the private imaging centre.”

Ms Liu Yueh Mei (sitting), co-founder of Optimimed, and some of her staff at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. Photo: Ms Liu Yueh Mei


Ms Liu said that pooling the capabilities of various imaging centres is advantageous as no imaging centres are “a hundred per cent complete in the type of scans” that they can provide.

When asked about future plans, Ms Liu hopes to “serve all the public hospitals” and to also work with more private imaging centres.

“I think as long as there is an increasing need where the public hospital is feeling the crunch in (providing MRI slots), we have the capacity and ability to garner support from the private side and lend that capacity to the public,” Ms Liu said.

Operating with a team of eight staff, Optimimed has served more than 6,400 patients since its launch two years ago.

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