Due to various medical conditions such as stroke, dementia and head and neck cancer, patients may develop difficulties with swallowing. Swallowing is a complex process that transports food and fluids from the mouth to the stomach. For patients with swallowing difficulties, they are at risk of food and fluids entering their airway and lungs instead of the stomach. This puts them at risk of aspiration pneumonia which can be fatal if not managed appropriately. Frequently they will be seen by a speech therapist who will assess their swallowing and recommend modifications such as thickening fluids to ensure safe swallowing.
Research has shown that patients that require thickened fluids tends to be dehydrated. This is due to reasons such as reduced acceptance of thicker fluids and inconvenience of fluid preparation resulting in reduced volume of fluids consumed.
To target these pain points, we have collaborated with a local company to develop prototypes of locally-flavoured pre-thickened beverages to increase the taste acceptability of our elderly population. These prototypes have been tested in a clinical setting with a group of 40 patients and have yielded positive findings
- Increased in patients’ fluids intake
- Increased in patients’ compliance to thickened fluids
- Reduced error rates in preparation of thickened fluids
- Manpower savings as preparation time is reduced
The plan moving forward is to commercialise these prototypes.
TECHNOLOGY FEATURES & SPECIFICATIONS
Pre-thickened beverages are available in the current overseas market such as in Australia and Japan but not in Singapore. The current products available are more suited to the palates of their individual local population such as fruit juices.
The key advantage of the prototypes is that it will be tailored to our local palate with beverages that our population is familiar with. There are currently no such products readily available in the local market.
Primary application area and potential markets include but not limited to the following:
Restructured and/or private hospitals
In the community and retail e.g. vending machines, coffeeshops, retail pharmacies
Products that can be developed if the technology is adopted
Wider variety of the locally-flavored beverages
1. Encourages more patient independence by reducing the reliance on caregivers to thickened fluids for safe swallowing. With increase independence, it also encourages increased oral intake.
2. Increased patient safety by providing accuracy of thickened fluids via mass production
3. Reduces caregiver stress with increased patient independence in attending to own needs.
4. Improves healthcare workers’ efficiency due to easy dispensing by reducing the need for manual thickening of fluids. The amount of time saved performing this task can be better used for more valued nursing needs.
5. Encourages job upskilling given the ease of dispensing so that any healthcare worker can be trained to perform this duty.
6. Allow social inclusion for patients with swallowing difficulties to engage in social eating/drinking in the community without the additional step of thickening fluids.
This allows business owners to have the opportunity to collaborate with a large general hospital and expand their client-base leading to business growth.