National University Hospital launching AI-driven digestive centre


National University Health System’s flagship hospital National University Hospital (NUH) is building a new institution focused on enhancing the detection and diagnosis of digestive illnesses through AI and other advanced technologies.

Envisioned to be a one-stop centre for gastroenterology and hepatology services, the National University Centre for Digestive Health is touted to be the first in Singapore to implement three AI-powered systems for detection, diagnosis, and quality control, which will work together to effectively identify cancerous gastrointestinal lesions and enable its near real-time diagnosis. 


The centre, which aspires to be the leading academic centre for digestive health in Southeast Asia, wants to raise the bar in the early disease detection, precise diagnosis, treatment and prevention of digestive illnesses. 

Integrating different AI systems, NUH said, will allow treatments or follow-up interventions to be administered earlier for patients identified with high-risk lesions, “potentially leading to improved prognosis and treatment outcomes.” 

The importance of this early detection cannot be overemphasised: gastrointestinal cancers and liver cancer are among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in Singapore, making up one-third of all cancer cases in males and about one-fifth of cases in females in 2021.

Besides leveraging AI, the centre also seeks to develop a blood-based diagnostic test for stomach cancer, discover new biomarkers for more precise detection of colorectal cancer, and create new pancreas and liver cancer assays.

The National University Centre for Digestive Health is expected to be established in the first half of 2025.


Another centre dedicated to addressing Singapore’s growing cases of digestive cancers, the NUH Endoscopy Centre, last year introduced an X-ray-based visualisation system which features advanced 3D imaging that raises surgeons’ capability to locate suspicious tissues and that can calculate optimal dose for patients. 

The National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine), whose principal teaching hospital is the NUH, has also leveraged emerging technologies in the training of diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. It recently introduced a mixed reality-based training module, powered by GigXR, a United States-based provider of holographic healthcare training. 

AI also underpins a new centre for community-based eye healthcare run by NUS Medicine. The Centre for Innovation and Precision Eye Health has come up with a retinal photo-based AI for identifying visual impairment and cataracts and predicting biological age and risks of cardiovascular diseases.

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