Jessica Soo from the SGH Office of Patient Experience was the first administrator in SingHealth to go overseas for attachment and training. What did she learn from her six weeks with Northwell Health in New York? 

Jessica who? 

Jessica Soo has a unique role in the Office of Patient Experience (OPE) in Singapore General Hospital. In essence, she is a data storyteller who heads up a three-man Analytics & Intelligence unit in OPE. Long before SGH had a data science office, Jessica and her team have been driving the use of patients’ feedback to help the hospital identify service gaps and track efforts to improve patient experience. 

She now has another feather in her cap – as the first administrator in SingHealth to join the ranks of clinical colleagues who go overseas on attachment, made possible through the SingHealth Healthcare Administrators Fund.

Why New York?

It is home to Northwell Health, New York’s largest health system. Its more than 85,000 employees treat over two million patients each year in 21 hospitals and 890 outpatient facilities in New York City and the surrounding region. It is a highly visible brand, featured in two Netflix series, its choir was on America’s Got Talent and its executive chef appears on CBS Mornings show. Among other things, Northwell is known for its exceptional patient experience. So when Northwell agreed to host our first administrator, it was quickly decided to send a colleague from OPE.

Was it difficult to manage? 

“I was there for six weeks, from September to October 2023. While it was a comfortable average of 10 to 20 degree Celsius, I encountered one of the wettest September since 1882, with flash floods affecting subways and causing leaks in hospital wards. 

“Despite not being a driver, I managed to use Uber and my own two feet to criss-cross Long Island and Manhattan to visit 11 hospitals and centres.”

“It was hard leaving Bing, my five-year-old son, but my mother-in-law was all supportive – ‘Just go! We’ll take good care of him.’ The Americans were astounded. Many of them who were mothers said it would be impossible for them - to find childcare and to simply put their career needs first.”

“And when I returned, I found Bing a lot more independent than when I left him. So we were both growing at the same time, even though we were on different sides of the globe.”

Mummy and son connecting over Zoom.  

What did she learn?

Two areas stood out for Jessica – the extensive use of data in patient experience; and how Northwell was intentional and consistent in cascading key messages about Patient Experience down to their 85,000 staff across their more than 900 sites.

“Northwell hired a Michelin Star chef, Bruno, to transform their hospital food. He’s also a celebrity who has appeared on CBS Mornings show. Using data of patient feedback about food, Corporate Executive Chef Bruno plans and divides his time and attention among the various hospitals to make improvements to processes and then measure the complaints.  

“I was early for one of my kitchen rounds with him, so I chatted with the security guard. He was incredulous to hear that Singapore patients consistently rated hospital food poorly – “How can that be? Food is medicine, food is healing.” He was repeating the exact same message I had heard from Northwell CEO Michael Dowling himself at the new hire orientation on my first day there!” 

“Every Wednesday, HQ will send out content around a topic, such as Empathy, to all institution patient experience leads. It is then up to each institution to use their own patient stories, data and other materials to cascade the message.”

Monitoring effectiveness of a patient education pamphlet on common medication

“Northwell also makes the use of data highly visible and is very intentional in the use of Patient Reported Experience Measures (PREM). All stakeholders must know the questions asked of patients in the feedback forms, understand the results and put in place improvement processes. They also require all new hires and newly promoted supervisors to go through a data literacy course to understand what is being measured and how to retrieve and read the results.”

“They are also very transparent with their patients, openly telling them what Northwell is tracking and measuring. This way the patients can help to give inputs to close the loop.”

What’s next? 

“I wasn’t asked to come back to start a new service or anything, which is usually required for clinical colleagues who go on HMDP. But learning from Northwell, I am pushing for PX (patient experience) data, in other words the patient’s voice, to have more visibility and be used for decision making. My team is working on stabilising the platform used to collect PREM, and building of dashboards to help frontline colleagues track patient feedback and put in improvement interventions, to deliver better patient experience.” 

Tips for the next administrator

“It was a really rewarding trip and I will DEFINITELY RECOMMEND to fellow administrators who get the opportunity. Go with an open mind and a sense of adventure. It is possible to have fun alone, too, (joy@work)!”

“And be proud, even while we must be humble to learn, because we aren’t bad ourselves at all. They are also eager to learn from us.”