Tang Hwee Suan, Director, MOHH Entities Technology Services (METS), IHiS, Singapore

By Yun Xuan Poon

Women in GovTech Special Report 2021.

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

I oversee multiple portfolios of projects ranging from Patient Management and Accounting, Finance ERP and Health Finance of different scale and complexity to support a Healthcare Cluster or across multiple Public Healthcare Institutions. My role requires me to engage key stakeholders from MOH, MOHH, Healthcare Clusters and 1FSS, to ensure our technology deliverables are aligned to meet their strategic business objectives or policy objectives. I lead teams in the conceptualisation and design of new digital initiatives, planning and implementation of complex initiatives to improve operational efficiency in patient and finance administration, improve cost management as well as enabling affordable healthcare for patients.

With an aging population’s demand on the Healthcare System, increasing manpower crunch and uncertain Covid-19 pandemic outlook, there is a constant need to explore how technology could be used to transform the existing operating process and the use of data to drive more patient-centric services, improve the patients’ experience and empowering patients to manage their health and wellness.

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

That would be the initiative to set up dedicated business units to further strengthen IHiS’ engagement with the Healthcare Clusters. Throughout the year, we have worked on streamlining our focus on the implementation of technology to meet the increasing healthcare demand and to continue keeping our technology systems resilient through these business units.

I embraced a change management approach to actively engage affected employees, provided clarity on their new roles and job scopes, provided opportunities for career development and guided the teams in resolving contentious issues.

Over six months, I worked with the team leads to identify the strength and aspirations of their staff to place them in suitable positions under the new structures and new roles. We also clarified areas of work impacted by the change and worked out a timeline to ensure smooth transitions. We overcame many teething and complex issues along the way as we settled into the new structures. I am heartened to see that many staff have settled well into the new structure. I would like to emphasise that it is important to engage people and have empathy to help them to cope with the fear and uncertainty that comes with such organisational changes.

What is one unexpected learning from 2021?

I was pursuing my Master of Technology in Digital Leadership with NUS/ISS and did a 10 months Capstone project on Population Health. We adopted a design thinking approach to conduct ethnographic interviews and performed job shadowing onsite to observe the patient’s journey. The escalation of the Covid-19 cases and heightened alerts disrupted the entire study as onsite job shadowing was disallowed. Our project team had to explore other viable, less interactive approaches to carry on the project. The study was eventually carried out virtually with the sponsors, internal and external stakeholders. It wasn’t easy to diagnose a complex problem statement on Population Health and developed a comprehensive digital transformation proposal virtually in ten months. I learnt to stay focused, resilient and applied skills to manage complexities throughout the study.

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

I would like to apply learnings acquired from my Master of Technology to my job and share the tools and techniques with my teams, such as scenarios planning, customer centric business model, design thinking, system thinking and Cynefin framework, etc. They are not technology but an awesome set of relevant tools for digital transformation. On the technology area, I hope to be able to explore the ethical use of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

What are your priorities for 2022?

2022 is going to be an exciting year. My first priority is to ensure quality and timely implementation of critical initiatives. We will be deploying a new technology platform that leverages on massive data to transform the costing process for the Public Healthcare, with agility, timeliness and insights for policy decision making on cost management in mind. In addition, we will be deploying a series of major enhancements to mission critical systems across all Public Healthcare Clusters in support of MOH’s implementation of new subsidy frameworks to support patients’ access to care at the most appropriate healthcare settings and ensure resources are distributed in a manner that better target patients who need greater support.
My second priority is to develop a growth mind-set for IHiS, for example to develop an engaging, enriching and enabling basic delivery training curriculum to equip new joiners and staff with relevant foundation skills to understand the policy, governance, process and tools used in IHiS and the Healthcare operating environment.

My third priority is personal well-being. This is an important priority not only for myself but for everyone too. With the uncertainty of the pandemic, it is crucial for everyone to manage their personal well-being through regular breaks, spending time on their hobbies or finding a new hobby. I hope to continue with mindfulness practices and spend more time exploring new cooking recipes and techniques.

Who are the mentors and heroes that inspire you?

The heroes who inspired me were the leaders, colleagues, friends and family who supported me relentlessly through the years. Many were generous in knowledge sharing, selflessness and demonstrated appreciation that inspired me to do better. In his book “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”, Mitch Albom said: “…the little things you do can affect other people’s lives and experiences dramatically,” so let’s be grateful to people around us for their generosity and kindness.

My greatest leadership mentor was former Head of Civil Service Mr Lim Siong Guan, who co-authored “The Leader, The Teacher & You”. Anyone who aspires to be a good leader should read Mr Lim’s book. I recall in one of his public talks, he used an analogy of a bus to describe barriers to change. To paraphrase, “you can be on the bus of change (to support), or stand by the side of the bus to observe the change, but don’t let the bus run you down by standing against the change”. I will never forget his wise sharing.

What gets you up in the morning?

Guiding my teams, helping my peers and advising my external stakeholders/management to achieve better delivery outcomes, especially in driving technology implementation with good quality and positive impact to the Healthcare operations. Technology works in Healthcare to serve the public. To ensure affordable and quality healthcare is very purposeful and yet challenging, the sense of contribution and achievement is beyond what words could express.