Speech by Associate Professor Benjamin Ong Director of Medical Services, Ministry of Health at the Singapore Health Quality Service Award 2014

Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth

Distinguished Colleagues and Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Introduction

1       I am really pleased to join you this afternoon at the Singapore Health Quality Service Award 2014. Today, we honour our healthcare professionals, administrators and support officers, for their commitment to quality care and excellence in service.

 

Challenges in Achieving Clinical Quality & Service Excellence

 2       Over the years, Singapore healthcare has transformed with concerted efforts to improve quality and service delivery.

 3         Ensuring continued good healthcare delivery – more effective and efficient diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for patients – is not easy. This needs teamwork involving well trained and committed healthcare professionals who engage patients and their families, to deliver care with empathy. There also needs to be an impetus to learn and continuously improve on the care delivered.

 4       Continuous improvement is important because a healthcare system that does not transform itself to match the changing health needs as well as advances in treatments quickly becomes outdated. Such a system cannot address the future health needs and expectations of Singaporeans. A valuable healthcare delivery system that is effective is a sustainable one. As healthcare professionals, we can innovate to be more efficient and thus, optimising productivity. This improves the patients’ experience and the work environment of our staff.

            

Transforming Clinical Quality and Service Excellence in Singapore

 5       As we progress towards our Healthcare 2020 Vision, our healthcare system needs to be re-designed to become more patient-centered rather than provider-centric system arranged around diseases and specialties. This is significant. The patients’ needs, values and preferences should increasingly determine the design and delivery of healthcare. This means that the patient must be an active participant in disease management and health maintenance as well. Healthcare professionals have limited touch time or face time with patients who are individual persons in families and communities with jobs and aspirations. How can our healthcare infrastructure and processes be re-designed and delivered in a manner to partner with Singaporeans to better look after themselves? With this changed paradigm, what are the implications on quality and service excellence?

 6       Innovating and designing new patient centric models of care will take time. This starts with trust, communication and collaboration among all our healthcare institutions and with the Ministry of Health (MOH). It is our combined effort to co-create our healthcare system of the future that will bring about better value and efficiency, better system performance, and ultimately better clinical outcomes and patient experiences for Singaporeans. The regional health systems initiative is such a platform to help catalyse this movement. But one needs to realise that the patient’s care integration should not now be siloed in these newer systems. To better engage with patients, barriers between our healthcare institutions; as well as internal organisational barriers between healthcare professionals and healthcare administrators, need to be bridged.

 

SHINe: The Singapore Healthcare Improvement Network

 7       Through 2013, MOH worked closely with all our 21 public sector healthcare institutions and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) to jointly establish the Singapore Healthcare Improvement Network (SHINe). SHINe’s mission is to work towards the gradual transformation of our local patient safety and quality improvement landscape. Our long term vision is to achieve the triple aim of healthcare – better care, better health and better value for all patients.

 8       Over the next few years, SHINe will be spearheading a system-wide quality improvement initiative to enhance patient safety in all public sector healthcare institutions. This large-scale initiative will have three work streams – i.e. medication safety, prevention of healthcare-associated infections and prevention of surgical complications. To ensure maximal benefit for patients, the work of SHINe will be impact-driven, and SHINe will be focused on spreading and bringing about wide spread adoption of change packages that have proven to reduce harm in these three work streams.

 9       This is only the beginning. SHINe seeks to harness existing quality improvement (QI) opportunities in our healthcare institutions, grow national capacity and capability for continuous improvement, and ultimately accelerate the pace and scale of QI in Singapore. SHINe represents an opportunity for Singapore healthcare institutions to work together to improve care quality. I hope that in time, all healthcare institutions in Singapore – whether public or private, from tertiary institutions to intermediate and long term care institutions, will come on-board.

 

Singapore Health Quality and Service Award

 10     Even as we look to the future, I am pleased that we will also be celebrating our successes. Today, I am honoured to be asked to help recognise the contributions of outstanding individuals and teams for their dedication in achieving clinical quality and service excellence. Organised by SingHealth, the annual Singapore Health Quality Service Award is opened for nomination of healthcare professionals from public healthcare institutions, community hospitals and private healthcare.

 11     This year, SingHealth reported even greater participation, and there are more winners from the Intermediate and Long-Term Care sector, namely Ang Mo Kio-Thye Hua Kwan Hospital, Econ Healthcare Group, and St Luke’s Hospital. Private institutions such as Thomson Medical Centre and the Singapore Cord Blood Bank have also taken part. The strong support given by these partners affirm our shared commitment to improve clinical quality and service excellence.

 12     My heartiest congratulations to all 2,727 award winners. I also congratulate the two Best Teams for their outstanding clinical practice and service improvement projects. All of you epitomise care and service of the highest quality for our patients.

 13     Team HEARTS from the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), comprising nurses and staff from the Facilities Plant Engineering and IT departments, is an example of how our healthcare family innovates to improve clinical quality. When the Telemetry alarm is activated, appropriate nursing follow up can potentially be delayed by engaged phone lines. Team HEARTS designed a new audio alarm system with an LED display that televises alarm messages across the wards’ corridors. This reduced response time significantly and improved patient safety. I am heartened to know that following its success, the system will be implemented at non-NHCS wards for patients that require ECG monitoring. Such scaling up and spreading innovations ensures more patients can then benefit.

 14     Miss Joan Lim, a Senior Patient Care Assistant with Mount Alvernia Hospital, is another role model. In her 51 years of caring for postnatal mothers and their newborns, she never ceases to extend a personal touch to her patients. She would suggest special menus for long-staying patients to ensure that they would not be bored of the same food. Joan also offers tips to mothers who have problems breastfeeding, and would decorate the nursery and cots to brighten the mood of the babies and their families. Despite her long service, Joan always reports at least 45 minutes early for work.

 

Conclusion

 15     In closing, to all the winners today, your passion and dedication are examples for all of us to learn and emulate. With the setup of SHINe, there will be even more opportunities for us to learn from each other and to collaborate.

 16     As leaders in your respective areas, you also have the opportunity to inspire future generations of healthcare professionals, administrators and support officers, to continue advancing quality and service excellence for our patients.

 17     Thank you and I wish you all a pleasant day.

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