How Singapore uses design thinking to build hospitals

By Charlene Chin

Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Director of Infrastructure and Design Thinking speaks at Innovation Labs World.

A hospital in Singapore builds its infrastructure based on lean and design thinking, its director of infrastructure said at Innovation Labs World.

“We did lean many years ago for survival. This is to ensure that we can get things through quickly and efficiently”, said Chong Pue Kim, Director of Infrastructure 3P, Design Thinking and Innovation, at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

When building new infrastructure or renovating existing ones, the hospital first uses lean and design-thinking principles to build efficient processes. The infrastructure is then built around this.

For instance, the hospital has cut waiting times by 40% in its outpatient pharmacy, and doctor waiting times by 7% by redesigning clinic layout. The outpatient centre was redesigned to fit in more consultation rooms, and services were reorganised in the building so patients could locate services easily.

The hospital must first makes sure its processes are resilient against future changes. “We come up with a future state option on what we should be doing”, she said. The hospital then looks at what “our future processes should be like in a few years down the road… and then we do a mockup to test the layout”, she said.

“The infrastructure plays a very important role”, Chong said. Hospital staff must “future proof your processes using the lean or design-thinking approach”, instead of going straight to renovation works, she added.

Innovation Labs World is a festival of public service innovation organised by GovInsider. It was held on 27 September in Singapore, with over 450 people attending from around the world.