Wong Soo Min, Group Chief Financial Officer, National University Health System, Singapore
By Sean Nolan
Women in GovTech Special Report 2021.
The National University Health System (NUHS) is one of three public healthcare clusters in Singapore, as well as an integrated Academic Health System and Regional Health System that delivers value-driven, innovative and sustainable healthcare in Singapore. With member institutions under one Academic Health System, NUHS creates synergies as a fully integrated cluster to provide seamless care, develop solutions for Singapore's healthcare challenges and nurture the next generation of healthcare professionals.
As the Group Chief Financial Officer, I lead a team of professionals to manage the entirety of the finance and business functions, including the development of strategies while ensuring effective controls and ongoing financial sustainability. I also oversee enterprise risk management, working closely with stakeholders to ensure a robust framework. In my capacity as the Corporate Office Chief of Staff, I lead integration efforts and drive strategies and initiatives to enable the delivery of quality and value.
Within NUHS, I especially enjoyed working with Associate Professor James Yip, Head of Academic Informatics Office, NUHS and Director, National University Heart Centre, and Associate Professor Keith Lim, Senior consultant, Department of Radiation Oncology, NCIS and the cross-functional teams to re-engineer our processes to construct Values-Driven Outcomes (VDO). In the process, we managed to clinch a National Medical Excellence Team Award.
This initiative is part of the nationwide effort to provide good healthcare that is affordable and sustainable for Singapore’s future generation. By redesigning our processes in collecting, benchmarking and analysing various quality and cost indicators, and providing the data to healthcare professionals, it enabled us to identify cost-effective clinical practices, reduce unnecessary variations and improve both cost and quality outcomes for patients.
I am also thankful to have an agile and resilient team in NUHS and IHiS (the healthcare IT solutioning arm) who worked behind the scene to harmonise, streamline and simplify many of our processes and be amongst the first in healthcare to roll out Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) for repetitive activities. This is essentially employing “digital robot staff” in claims processing, bills adjustment and mass creation of patient profiles. The benefits to patients are – shorter turnaround time and more accurate bills and refunds.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we had to do massive patient registration for dormitory swab testing operations so that test results can be sent to the National Electronic Health Record for tracking and analysis purposes. Thousands of swab tests were done daily and manual registration onsite would have jammed the entire operations. NUHS and IHiS worked round the clock – from conceptualising the flow to end-to-end solution – all achieved within six days.
All the heavy lifting to simplify the process, size up the mandatory system fields, validate the patient identifiers, develop the bot, conduct the user acceptance testing and fix the glitches were done through multi-party, multi-hour Zoom meetings, with no physical meetings at all! What would have taken two minutes per registration was completed by the robot in 30 seconds – this translated to an efficiency equivalent to having six full-time staff working for two full months. This is the potential of RPA that we would like to scale up across NUHS.
What is one unexpected learning from 2021?
We can always plan and have contingencies for various scenarios. Sometimes, Murphy’s law sets in, so, just stay calm, adjust the plans and make the best of what we have and catch up later. It will blow over.
What’s your favorite memory from the past year?
Disruption drives innovation. We innovated so much in the past year with less deliberation – it takes a lot of trust in one another to adjust to the “just do it” mode. In many instances, we moved quickly to implement the “good to go” ideas, instead of waiting for the perfect solutions.
What’s a technology you’re excited to explore in 2022?
We are amongst the participating organisations in a cross-sector alliance to develop and build an end-to-end health insurance claims platform to improve patient experience and enhance operational efficiency. This initiative aligns with the nation’s move towards a digital, innovation-driven economy that would bring wider benefits to Singaporeans. Patients, healthcare providers and insurers will be able to benefit from the more convenient access to patient’s insurance policy details; faster claims processing; seamless authorisation of data release and timelier exchange of data. This blockchain approach also brings about the potential to delayer the downstream processes so that patients can focus on their recovery without worrying about the lengthy billing process.
What are your priorities for 2022?
I would like to keep up the momentum in connecting with teams, having more one-on-one discussions and group meetings. Also, I would like to develop and provide more opportunities for the pipeline talents.
I would also like to leverage our team’s expertise in Agile methodology and data analytics using business intelligence and software programming languages. In the coming year, we would have the opportunity to put these skills to good use – keep things simple so that we do not overcomplicate any solutioning and move from descriptive and diagnostic to predictive and prescriptive analytics as we work with the various stakeholders to shore up the population health initiatives.
On the personal front, I have been too laxed with diet rules, so my priority is to consciously plan for wellness daily – more exercise and sleep, stay hydrated and eat less.
Who are the mentors and heroes that inspire you?
Too many to list. I have worked with wonderful bosses and colleagues who inspire me to become better. I have a healthy family support system that allows me to pursue my interest. My dad impressed upon me to work hard for anything I want and that success will follow when I do what I love and believe in.
What gets you up in the morning?
Every day is a fresh start, full of possibilities. I always have something I want to do for the next day - try new things, fix what I could not the day before or simply, just begin again.