How we built a data-driven hospital

By James Woo

The tech chief of Farrer Park Hospital writes about how data plays a foundational role and getting savings with tech.

Image: Farrer Park Hospital

With the challenge of an ageing population looming over Singapore and the rest of Asia, the shift is now towards a ‘patient centric’ model.

The pioneers of Farrer Park Hospital (FPH) foresaw this trend and the intent was set in place during the early planning stage of the hospital. FPH is founded, developed and managed by physicians where their collective clinical and patient fronting experience has led to the creation of Singapore’s first patient centric and clinically functional private healthcare facility.

They knew that technology coupled with good design, right workflow with the right “heart ware” would be the differentiator that would drive this organisation toward the future. In short, we recognise that innovations have to incorporate elements relating to the human aspects of physical, emotional and mental well-being coupled with the right processes and technology.

Data as a foundation

The hospital was designed as a fully digitised building with 8,500 data points and 650 wifi access points to provide a strong foundation. This infrastructure helps us support a seamless flow of data which can be securely accessed and shared locally or remotely by authorised users.

We purposely chose an all-in-one fully tested, secured, highly available and robust Hospital Information System (HIS) with over 20 pre-integrated modules ranging from patient management, patient accounting, bed management, clinician system, nursing system, digital imaging, laboratory and pharmacy. This guarantees that data flows seamlessly between modules in a timely manner and minimizes the chances of data flow disruption, data discrepancies, integration issues, revenue leakage and support issues.

Clinicians use their mobile device to securely access patient’s data from our HIS in real-time either within the building, in their clinic or from any part of Singapore or the world as long as they have internet access. This is to eliminate the need to call back to their clinic/hospital, and facilitate their quick access to patient’s notes, nursing notes, medications, results be it laboratory or diagnostic images or input of clinical and non-clinical orders.

Over $800,000 in savings

Image: Farrer Park Hospital

We specifically designed a tablet for patients, attached to their bed table, with apps for entertainment, news, games and meal orders. It is designed to provide a familiar mobile user interface to the patients making it intuitive to navigate. More importantly, we have integrated our meal ordering system with the HIS to ensure that any food choices appearing on their screen have taken into consideration the patient’s allergies, and food restriction. As a result, they have the complete freedom and peace of mind to choose their meals from the app.

This integration allows us to improve patient safety, enhance their experience while at the same time, creates a saving of over $120,000 annually in nursing man hours by replacing the manual effort to input the allergies and food restriction for each patient.

From an organization perspective, bottom line is equally important as top line and we were the first to fully outsource our linen management using RfID. The intent was to free up space within FPH for other operational needs and through this initiative, we were able to free up the space and save $750K annually. At the same time, we have been able to kick start a potential new revenue stream for our vendor.

AI-driven cyber security

As much as technology plays a key role in innovation, we are aware of the need to ensure our digital assets and patient information are secured and protected properly. From inception, we have put in place info-security measures based on best practices - covering people, process and technology.

In addition, we use Artificial Intelligence based tools to create a secured environment for operations and business to be carried out at the hospital. We have to ensure that innovations using technology continue to be carried out in a safe and secured manner.

FPH being a new hospital built from the ground up has its challenges as well especially with the lack of historical organic data to build up a credible big data repository for the purpose of data analytics and machine learning. However, with almost everything being digitised in FPH, I believe we can build this data repository up pretty quickly. In parallel, we can work with like-minded partners to augment our existing data, to build meaningful and powerful data analytics to improve operations and provide even better experience and quality care to our patients as well as a better facilities for our clinicians to practice their medicine.

The last few years had been an exciting journey, and in my view, there is still room for continuous improvement given that patient’s expectations, regulatory requirements and competition evolve constantly with time. We can fine tune some of the existing processes to transform those that are no longer relevant and digitise them for better efficiency and in the long run, free up time for our nurses to spend additional time with our patients at the bed-side to provide the human touch and attention.

Through continuous innovation, better use of human and data assets, we strive to continue to provide better care and medicine to our patients.

This post is authored by James Woo, Chief Information Officer of Farrer Park Hospital.