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Tue, Sep 21, 2010
The Straits Times

Enhance patient service to succeed

By Francis Chan and Dhruv Velloor

In the first of a six-part, fortnightly series sponsored by enterprise development agency Spring Singapore, Francis Chan and Dhruv Velloor look at how local firms can become leaders in the fast-growing health-care sector

PATIENTS are becoming more and more discerning, so local firms will need to raise their game in order to meet service expectations if they want a bigger piece of the lucrative health-care pie.

That is the view of Ms Samantha Su, deputy director of Spring Singapore's services and biomedical division.

Ms Su, who regularly deals with local health-care players, says patient service is just as important as medical expertise.

"Today, patients are more sophisticated, have access to more information and hence make informed decisions about their health and treatments," she said. "Health-care companies need to address patient service standards in entirety."

These, she added, include enhancing doctor- or nurse-patient exchanges, patient experiences at various touchpoints and the treatment processes that patients have to undergo.

"To support these areas, health-care players must leverage on technology or design optimal processes to ensure positive experiences," said Ms Su.

Latest figures show that firms in the local health services industry generated $7.7 billion in operating receipts and employed about 61,000 people in 2008.

The value-add from these firms, which comprise hospitals, clinics, dental services and other health service providers, also rose by 7 per cent to $4.1 billion in 2008 from a year earlier.

Spring notes that health-care firms are key to Singapore's continuing growth as Asia's health-care hub.

Ms Su said she has also seen more interest from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in seeking information on how they can be more productive. "For instance, many players are seeing the need to digitise medical records and X-rays with the aim of shortening processing time and greater accuracies," she said.

Spring has been working with SMEs to enhance patient service standards by helping them improve process flows and make the best use of technology.

Two years ago, Spring launched the Customer Centric Initiative for Health Care - a programme to support companies in identifying service gaps and designing initiatives to bridge such gaps.

"Process efficiency is often critical in the health-care sector as patients, and their families or friends, are facing real medical conditions when they are in the providers' premises," said Ms Su.

"Hence, it is very important for health-care providers to ensure that every touchpoint when the patients are in their premises be meaningfully and sensitively thought through."

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