Jessie Ho, Director, Product Management & Delivery Group 4 - Healthcare Enablement Office, IHiS, Singapore

By Shirley Tay

Women in GovTech Special Report 2020.

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

I am from IHiS’ Healthcare Enablement Office – we work closely with the Ministry of Health and other agencies/teams to plan and execute public healthcare’s IT needs for the next three to five years. For example, when I first joined IHiS in 2016, we were planning for the IT needs of the National Centre of Infectious Diseases, which was officially opened in 2019. NCID was designed to incorporate technology to help healthcare staff manage infectious diseases efficiently.

It has the “Real Time Location System” to track the movements of patients, staff and visitors, making contact tracing within the compounds much easier. It can even track and remind staff to sanitise their hands after seeing a patient. This has helped greatly in keeping them safe, and in turn, allowed them to give the best care they can to patients. It has occurred to me how timely and fortunate that NCID opened just before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out!

My team was also involved in the planning of Tan Tock Seng’s Hospital’s state of-the-art Command, Control and Communications (C3) System. Often termed “the brain of the hospital”, C3 gives a bird’s eye view of the thousands of ongoing operations indicators in a hospital. It facilitates the day-to-day management of hospital systems, responding to all the data it collects to optimise patient flow and care delivery. It even has models to help predict patients’ arrivals, and hospital flow simulation models that perform what-if analyses for better contingency preparation.

Currently, my colleagues and I are involved in the planning and execution of the IT needs of the new Woodlands Health Campus, which is set to become operational in the next few years. Many project teams are involved, from the architectural office, delivery groups, procurement and even cybersecurity. As the main department planning for it, I like to liken my team’s role as the glue that pieces everything together, helping everyone to be clear as to how they fit into the puzzle.

One of the things I enjoy most about working in HealthTech is that the results are very tangible and help many people, including myself. At the end of the day, whatever IHiS produces now, I will eventually and in fact, am already benefitting from it as a healthcare consumer. The outcomes are also very obvious and “out there”, as compared to other types of technology which are also important, but might not be so apparent to the masses.

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

When the pandemic hit our shores, Singapore Expo became the second Community Care Facility (CCF) to house patients – I was the IHiS Site Commander for Expo. IHiS was tasked to tech-enable the CCF for round-the-clock care of Covid-19 patients.

The concept of CCFs probably did not exist prior to Covid-19. However, as IHiS has extensive experience in Business-Tech integration, we had ready capabilities and products to assemble into a solution offering to jumpstart operations for the first hall in Expo within 4 days. Due to tight timelines and the lack of precedent in running a CCF, we adopted a ‘lift-drop-evolve’ approach to tech-enable the CCF, making round-the-clock care possible, efficient and safe.

We worked with clinicians to continuously improve the solutions. Within the first 50 days, we made 50 enhancements to the solutions, either to cater to changing requirements or in anticipation of what was going to be needed.

To be an integral part of Singapore’s efforts to fight the pandemic and to have been able to leverage technology to help our very brave healthcare staff provide care for patients – that is definitely the most impactful project I have worked on this year, and will probably rank among the top few in my career when it is over!

What is one unexpected learning from 2020?

Workwise, and in relation to my experience at the CCFs, I’ve learned that in a crisis period, when everybody – and I mean everybody – is on the same page and giving their maximum effort, you can turn the impossible into the possible. And that’s no easy feat, considering there were hundreds, even thousands of people involved.

On a personal level, because I was incredibly busy for a few months when the pandemic first hit, I am very grateful for my family, who gave me and my daughter, who is also in the healthcare industry, a lot of support and encouragement. I’ve always known that they are important of course, but this year I relearned exactly how important they are. Their understanding helped us out a lot on the home front, so that I could give my best effort at work.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?

Singapore is progressing rapidly towards being a Smart Nation – this applies to the healthcare industry too. So for 2021, my focus is on how to equip the upcoming Woodlands Health Campus with smart technology, while ensuring that the technology is as safe as possible as patient safety is a top priority in healthcare.

What are your priorities for 2021?

An area that I would like to do more of is mentoring, or grooming my team. I want to pass on my knowledge to them so that when the need arises, they are ready to step up, and turn challenges into positive experiences.

What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in government technology?

There is a perception that the technology industry is a male-dominated one. But we’re lucky in Singapore that the gender gap is not so apparent – personally, I have never felt disadvantaged as a female. It helps that technology is no longer like in the past, where it was more niche.

These days, it covers a very wide area and is prevalent in every aspect of society. So there are many roles to fulfil – and in fact, I think women are intrinsically more suited to perform many of them. So my advice to women is: don’t let any pre-conceived notions of gender stop you. Pursue what you are passionate about, work hard at it and you will have a good chance of success.

Write a message for your future self.

You can always plan for the future, but the future always has elements of the unknown, which is sometimes a little scary. But 2020 has shown me that even when the unforeseeable happens, it can still turn out fine, because with the right attitude, I can turn unplannable events into an achievement. I will want to continue learning from every experience, knowing that I can learn something from everything and turn it into a lesson, or a teachable moment for myself and loved ones.