How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation. 

I am currently the Director of Pharmacy at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. I am also appointed as the Director for Centre for Allied Health and Pharmacy Excellence (CAPE), a strategic platform to build innovation efforts for Allied Health and Pharmacy. One of my interests is to drive strategic innovation in healthcare and bring value to both patients and fellow colleagues.

As a trained pharmacist, I play a crucial role in medication management with the different stakeholders in our hospital. Besides ensuring a sustainable supply of medications for acute and chronic conditions, I collaborate to oversee governance, drug stewardship, quality control and safety matters. In the last few years, pharmacists have been advancing our scope of practice to bring more personalised and accessible pharmacy care and experience to our patients and caregivers.

We leverage on technology to bridge gaps in medication literacy and this is often done via sharing of medication related information on public platforms such as HealthHub. Currently there are few hundred medication information leaflets in HealthHub which you may find in a structured readable format. We have also enabled our medication administration reminders and medication delivery ordering service on the same platform.

Learning videos on how to order medications online have also been made available to empower patients and caregivers better. Very soon, we will print relevant QR codes on medication labels issued to patients so that they can refer and access the online information leaflets more easily and we can be more eco-friendly.

As the busy pharmacy handles a huge transaction daily, data analytics and informatics becomes part of our core job scope. These valuable skill sets often enable important decisions making in drug supplies and operations, for example predictive modelling in drug use projections, utilisation appropriateness and financial impact.

At B2 Outpatient Pharmacy, we have been using Outpatient Pharmacy Automation System (OPAS) to handle daily high prescription loads safely and efficiently. OPAS integrates different high-speed machines and robotics to automate the picking and packing process of medication. It reduces manual tasks and quickens operations, which translates to better care and shorter waiting time for our patients.

In return, our pharmacy staff can spend more quality time during medication consult to communicate with our patients. To date, OPAS has been the most awarded healthcare IT project in Singapore with a total of 16 awards acclaimed both nationally and internationally.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year? 

Besides the pandemic related work such as medication supplies sustainability and manpower ramping up for medication delivery, it will be conceptualising the Pharmacy without Walls (PoW) strategic innovation programme under our Hospital without Walls overall innovation.

As Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of technology, it is not surprising for the healthcare industry to also hasten the digitalisation of our clinical services beyond the hospital and empower patients and their caregivers to self-help. Stacking on our job redesign efforts for new pharmacists’ roles beyond the usual medication supply within the hospital, PoW envisions delivering seamless care within and beyond the hospital via digital means and humanised experience.

Through High Tech, PoW will empower High Touch. Through the three thrusts of PoW, the pharmacy aims to bring services closer to the community, provide value driven care that follows patients to the community; and enhance medication literacy through simplified and more accessible health information.

What is one unexpected learning from 2021? 

With the overwhelming information daily over the past year, it does require much resilience and perseverance to follow through the evolving rules and regulations in public healthcare and medication related guidelines. Maintaining a good network with stakeholders beyond our hospital is important to learn from best practices and even plugging gaps in understanding of latest policies. If we are already having difficulties navigating, how about members of public out there where health literacy posts a greater challenge and often results in fear and anxiety.

Hence, one important learning from 2021 was to be the bridge between policy makers and ground staff, between policies and patients/caregivers. One of the tasks we (me and our team leaders) spent lots of time in 2021 was to understand, communicate and communicate. Rules set today may change tomorrow and we need to be innovative in getting the accurate information out in the shortest possible time to the right group of people.

We seek to understand and also to be understood. There are times where we need to search for info ourselves before we could get to reply or improve a service, hence mutual patience would be of utmost importance.

What are your favourite memories from the past year? 

Amidst our topsy turvy work schedules for endless communication of new regulations and contact tracing, we appreciate outpouring kindness from food vendors who sponsored us lunches and care packs. Those beautifully packed bentos provided much warmth and reminded us of the public health mission why we are in this line. It was very sad to hear some didn’t make it through the Covid pandemic and folded their businesses along the way.

When I was conferred the Professor Lucy Wan Outstanding Pharmacist Award at the 2021 Asian Conference on Clinical Pharmacy and by Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore (PSS). It is the highest award given by the society to pharmacists who have excelled in their area of practice. I am honoured and really thankful to my bosses, fellow colleagues and team who have supported me throughout my whole career. I would not be where I am without an ACE team. I share this award with all of them.

What’s a tool or technique you’re excited to explore in 2022? 

As many would have heard, we are working with National Healthcare Group (NHG) cluster on upcoming NHG HealthApp (HAP) which will take care of all basic digital hygiene factors patients and caregivers will require to access our tertiary and polyclinics care. Hence, I am excited for our NHG patients who will finally get to enjoy care anytime anywhere at their fingertips. I would also work closely with the developing team to digitalise core services and hope that this digital platform will be THE one to bring our pharmacy closer to you.

What are your priorities for 2022? 

Innovation and digitalisation: To be able to materialise some of the innovation work planned under Pharmacy without Walls and push these enablers out to help patients and caregivers soon. We are also working on the National Harmonised Integrated Pharmacy System (NHIPS) which is a single digital platform that will enable the sharing and usage of prescription and medication information among the public healthcare clusters in Singapore. It will benefit patients, caregivers, service providers at both local and national levels.

Manpower: To look at sustainability of the healthcare workforce and this should include recruitment, retention and building resilience. Several of our fellow colleagues, especially our foreigners, have not seen their loved ones since the start of Covid-19. We empathise with them, hence underlying all digitalisation efforts or ramping up operations for Covid normalcy. We need to be mindful to pace our speed of change so that the whole ship can continue to steer along collectively to fight the battle.

Who are the mentors and heroes that inspire you? 

One of my coaches when I was in business school doing my MBA management communication and leadership module. She told me to think 3 steps ahead and 3 steps backwards when I hit a problem. When I did my elevator pitch on stage, she challenged me to think as if I was the next Minister of Health – what would I have said differently! It pushed me beyond my comfort zone of thinking only within my limited boundaries. In addition, the network which I’ve slowly built to connect with people beyond healthcare had constantly challenged me to connect dots and correlate other industries innovation to healthcare. This was also what’s inspired and kept me going.

What gets you up in the morning?

Being in public healthcare, my personal guiding principles are that we are in it for a larger mission – wanting to work to benefit the society, not being there for the position but to help make a difference. It is about being driven by a sense of responsible stewardship. The quote from our professional society always stays with me in my regular life principles – “Not for self but for all”. Having said this, I do ensure I take regular breaks amongst my work schedule even if it means an hour of run, cycle, yoga or having a meal with the family where I can blank out and clear my mind coming back more recharged and renewed. Self-care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, hence, do remember to set aside time for “me time”– Breathe.