Dr Chow Mun Hong is resolute in providing better and safer patient care.

When he witnessed the beauty of coral reefs during one of his diving trips many years ago, Dr Chow Mun Hong, had an epiphany that continues to shape his outlook today.

“The corals are our heritage and legacy. Likewise, we should appreciate what we have inherited, and must be mindful to leave things in a better state for future generations,” said Dr Chow, Senior Consultant and Director, Quality Management Department, SingHealth Polyclinics (SHP).

This philosophy remains his guiding principle to support healthcare professionals in carrying out their work more effectively and efficiently — all in the interest of better and safer patient care.

“We have highly educated, dedicated professionals striving to provide good care. We must design and improve the systems that enable our people to do good work. Our patients trust us and we honour that trust by working relentlessly to improve,” said Dr Chow.

Dr Chow and his team from the SHP Quality Management Department play a critical role in ensuring that the enduring commitment to quality is supported organisationally and remains integral to the core mission of SHP. They work with partners to develop systems, improve processes, and train other healthcare workers so that continual improvement is imbibed in the SHP culture.

For his relentless efforts at SHP and beyond, he was presented the National Outstanding Clinical Quality Champion Award last year, a prestigious recognition of the efforts of outstanding clinicians, clinician scientists and other healthcare professionals in advancing healthcare, improving the standards of patient safety, and driving research and education.

But Dr Chow is reluctant to take all the credit. “I may have started some conversations and implemented some initiatives, but the contributions came from so many people. No single person could have done it alone,” he said.

How it all started

Taking patient care to a higher level was a core commitment from SHP’s early years. Dr Chow founded the Quality Management Department in 2006 to bring together existing initiatives and to develop a framework that can enable the whole organisation to maintain high standards and continually improve.

“That way, quality becomes an organisational capability rather than just an individual commitment or effort,” Dr Chow said.

It was a learning experience for him, too. “I knew much less 15 years ago. We learnt along the way, through the efforts of many different people,” he added.

His fellowship with Kaiser Permanente, a leading integrated healthcare system in the United States, allowed him to view care delivery from a systems perspective. He saw the potential of certain concepts from the Chronic Care Model and Population Care Management, and went on to redesign the care delivery system at SHP.

Making a difference

One of Dr Chow’s biggest contributions is an integrated Quality framework that includes Clinical Governance, Quality Assurance, Patient Safety, Patient Experience, Enterprise Risk Management, Improvement, and Culture and Capacity Building.

“These programmes often have overlapping features, and by bringing them together, we minimise duplication, and leverage their respective strengths,” said Dr Chow.

He also spearheaded the Quality and Safety training framework so that everyone in the SHP family is aligned with the organisational values and expectations, such as interdisciplinary collaboration.

“The goal is to prepare healthcare workers to work effectively in teams and be equipped with the right skills. Together, we can learn and improve with colleagues from different disciplines,” said Dr Chow.

Dr Chow’s work in redesigning the care delivery system also resulted in reducing the physician’s work load.

A chance sighting of a coin-operated machine that measured one’s Body Mass Index (BMI) got ideas flowing.

“Instead of having doctors perform tasks such as measuring patients’ blood pressure (BP), we modified the BMI machine and added an electronic BP device to set up a health monitoring station so that patients can take the measurements with the help of Patient Service Associates before their consultations,” said Dr Chow.

The system was also enhanced to enable a risk score and treatment target for each patient to be calculated, which guides clinical decisions during consultations.

Dr Chow has also been steering patient care toward a proactive — instead of reactive — approach. For example, new information systems now enable doctors to generate patient registries to proactively monitor patients’ conditions and identify those who may need additional follow-ups. The SHP team is also developing other ways to engage patients, such as through video and teleconsultations to help patients stay well and active with more support.

Today, thanks to Dr Chow’s efforts, multidisciplinary teams are focused on continual improvement through system redesign so that ultimately, patients benefit from more accessible and timely care.

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