Lynette Ong, Director of Transformation Office, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, 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.

At the Transformation Office, we work with interdisciplinary teams to review and redesign care and processes. This review can arise from system-level needs or issues observed on the ground by staff. It can also be a proactive initiation to ensure future readiness. Every redesign centres around the needs of patients while also considering the needs of other stakeholders in the care ecosystem, such as caregivers and community care partners. Our collective goal is to work towards better, faster, safer and cheaper care. Our redesign approach is specific to the problem or needs at hand, underpinned by Lean, Design and Organisational Development (OD) principles and concepts. The professional expertise of the team comprises Lean Practitioners, Service and Industrial designers, Digital Precision engineers and OD practitioners.

Our office supports a spectrum of projects, ranging from initiatives to enable patient-centric care at a population health level, to ground-up projects such as point-of-care innovations. For point-of-care innovations, we have a maker space called Living Lab based at the Centre for Healthcare Innovation within the Health City Novena. The Living Lab provides the resources to help our staff translate their ideas into prototypes and to the eventual testing of proof of concept and value.

Bringing an idea from conceptualisation to a product or a new process which helps to improve care, brings great satisfaction and joy to the team and staff. While we do experience moments of failure in our rapid experiments, we will agilely turn every failure into a learning opportunity, through iteration and doing better as part of the design process.

While we work towards organisational excellence with continuous improvement and innovation, organisational health is of paramount importance to us and this is supported by our OD practitioners working with all levels of staff.

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

Every project is important and has a unique purpose and impact on patients, staff and the community. If I had to share one project here, it would be the development of a face shield for our frontline staff early this year when Covid-19 cases started to surface in Singapore. Face shields and goggles faced a global surge in demand and the supply was tight during the initial outbreak period. To prepare for a possible shortage of supply, we urgently had to develop a face shield in-house to protect our staff in Tan Tock Seng Hospital and National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Racing against time, the team worked rapidly with our Infectious Disease physicians and infection control nurses to develop 2 face shield prototypes within 2 weeks, for production and use. One of the designs is a 3D-printed face shield. This gives the hospital the assurance that should there be any disruption in international supply chains, we are still able to manufacture our face shield locally and quickly.

Today, the 2 face shield designs have received Registered Design and is a mark of our pride and achievement. Additionally, we have also collaborated with Siemens and its Industry 4.0 partners to bring forth continuous improvement to our 3D-printed face shields to benefit our community in Singapore and brought to the international market with quality assurance. In terms of production capacity, the collaboration has brought forth an increase in production capacity by 15 times.

What is one unexpected learning from 2020?

It would be learning to navigate in the liminal space. We usually enter liminal space when our former way of being is being challenged or changed, and we start to think and act in new ways. There is a constant need to straddle between action and contemplation amidst rapid development and uncertainty, all while keeping a constant lookout to make sure family members and my team at work are coping well. Momentum equilibrium is made possible from time to time with support from family members and a wonderful team at work. Though being in the liminal space is uncomfortable, it is exciting to see what lies ahead.

What do you look forward to in 2021?

In response to the pandemic in 2020, the healthcare industry has been propelled to transform digitally at an unprecedented rate. I look forward to the further use of digital healthcare technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual or augmented reality, 3D printing and robotics, to augment care by healthcare professionals, and enable care anytime and anywhere. It is a privilege to be part of the digital transformation journey to redesign care for patients alongside my fellow colleagues.

What are your priorities for 2021?

The hospital is at a juncture where many transformative changes are happening concurrently, from the development of sustainable care models, to large IT system changes. It is important not to lose sight of staff wellbeing and patients’ needs amongst these big shifts, and to keep them a priority. For staff wellbeing, we need to continue to improve our staff support structure and build our organisational resilience to cope and thrive in times of uncertainty. To keep patients’ needs at priority, the development of new care models needs to incorporate patient voices through avenues such as user needs analysis and co-creation workshops.

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

The journey will be much more fulfilling if you love what you are doing and keep in mind that healthcare is a team sport. Harness the power of diversity and encourage cross-boundary engagement. You will see amazing creativity being unleashed and the impossible made possible.

Write a message for your future self.

Keep pace so that I can ‘see’ the things that I can see only when I slow down.
Humour is an essential part of life. Watch more sitcoms.
Perfect the process, not the outcome.