'Good enough for your own mother'

'Good enough for your own mother'

SINGAPORE - From Toyota to Changi Airport, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) has a little bit of these leading brands, and more, in it.

From the moment patients enter the hospital, they are met by greeters - an idea from American retailer Walmart. But unlike those from the supermarket chain who help customers with their shopping bags, the KTPH greeters help less mobile patients get out of their cars and escort them to clinics in wheelchairs or a buggy.

At the accident and emergency (A&E) department, there is a touchscreen - much like the ones at Changi Airport's famously spotless toilets - for patients to give instant feedback.

From a visit to car manufacturer Toyota's factory in Japan during the hospital's planning stages, KTPH administrators learnt about efficient work processes, such as "shadow boarding". At the nurses' work trolleys are photos of items that are supposed to be there, serving as a reminder to replenish the items or return them.

These, and other little touches by KTPH, gave Singapore's newest hospital the honour of being named the best in the Health Ministry's patient satisfaction survey for the second time. Around eight in 10 patients described service at KTPH as "excellent" or "good", with nearly nine in 10 giving its wards the thumbs-up.

Its service philosophy says it all: "Care and service good enough for your own mother."

Said the hospital's chief executive Chew Kwee Tiang: "Sometimes, we may want to do things that are to our convenience. But if we turn around and say, 'If the patient was your mother, what would you do?', that changes the perspective."

Patients like it that apples and blankets are available at the A&E ward to make the wait - which can go up to two hours - more bearable. There is also a care corner, where a staff is stationed to provide regular updates to those whose family members are receiving emergency help.

Reading glasses are provided at all registration counters for those who need them when filling out forms. Patients being discharged, but whose family members are late in picking them up, are ushered to a lounge with plush armchairs and a television and served a drink.

Mr Chen Tian, 48, a clerk who was hospitalised for a year due to a car accident, said: "Overall, the hospital's service is good. The doctors have very good attitudes."

Feedback from patients - and staff - are important to the 550-bed hospital too, said Mrs Chew.

On Fridays, it is TGIF, or The Good Idea Friday, where staff gather to suggest ways to improve things in the hospital. It was here that the idea for cellphone charging stations at the A&E was born.

Of the 1,500 feedback forms the hospital receives a month, about 200 are complaints. These are personally reviewed by Mrs Chew, the hospital's chief operating officer up till April this year.

About 80 to 100 of these patients are invited back to the hospital for a feedback session, held once a month and also personally chaired by Mrs Chew. Only about 10 will show up. Even so, a group of nurses, executives and doctors will be present. From these sessions, they are able to gather some insights into what patients want, and design work processes and services around them.

"We are not allowed to defend ourselves at these sessions. The idea is to let patients speak, so that we know where we can improve and to see things from their points of view," said Mrs Chew.

At lunchtime on Wednesdays are sessions where staff share learning points picked up from a list of books, such as Stephen Covey's Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, that they are encouraged to read. Staff who attend chalk up training time from these hour-long lunch discussions.

KTPH is under health-care cluster Alexandra Health. The cluster's management formerly oversaw Alexandra Hospital, which had topped the survey yearly since its inception in 2004.

Mrs Chew puts the reason behind KTPH's consistently good showing down to the "spirit of the people" and the service culture.

"One of the most important things about service is the people: People we choose and people who want to work with us should be people who have the heart for service. If they hate people, they can't do their jobs well," said Mrs Chew.

"But what is more important is, how do we design our system to help them do their work well?"


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