We cannot be totally error-free, but we can work to create systems robust enough to mitigate errors and not allow them to affect patients.
Dr Wijaya Martanto (top left) gave up his place as an Ophthalmology resident to explore new grounds as part of the Clinical Governance team planning for the upcoming Sengkang General and Community Hospitals. As it is, there's no other place Dr Martanto would rather be.
The Duke-NUS Medical School alumnus and holder of PhD in Chemical Engineering was inspired after attending a lecture by his (now) mentor and Chairman Medical Board of Sengkang Health (SKH), Assoc Prof Ong Biauw Chi.
"I learnt that I can have strong impact on patient care even though I do not have direct patient contact on a daily basis. It is through collaborative efforts with colleagues and partners outside of our hospitals that we hope to provide better, seamless and integrated care," he said. Dr Martanto later found an opening in Prof Ong's team and the rest is history.
As part of a patient-centred care initiative, Dr Martanto is currently engaging general practitioners (GP) around Alexandra Hospital (managed by SKH) as well as in Sengkang and Punggol in collaboration with SKH's Service Planning team to establish close partnerships for the future. By getting GPs involved, it encourages every Singaporean to have a primary care provider who can consistently take care of them in the long term. This leaves SKH to better manage patients' acute care needs.
"I learnt that I can have strong impact on patient care even though I do not have direct patient contact on a daily basis."
Dr Martanto developed a passion for seeking collaborations even during his days as a student. He was a founder of the Duke-NUS Medical School's MedTech interest group and, before that, an investigator for microneedle research and its application at the Georgia Institute of Technology, USA.
"I am fortunate to have an engineering background that complements my medical training because this gives me a structured, analytical approach to problem solving," Dr Martanto explained.
"My work in clinical governance gives me the rare opportunity to be involved in the setting up of a new hospital, and to learn from experienced leaders like Prof Ong and colleagues. That is definitely the most rewarding part of my work so far."
Dr Ho Le Onn (top right), Assistant Director at SGH's Patient Safety and Clinical Standards Unit, also believes that one can make a difference to the care of patients through clinical governance.
It was a fated rotation during his Medical Officer days that set Dr Ho on the path of healthcare administration.
"I learnt that we need to fight for better patient safety. So I stuck around when I saw that this was an area that could benefit from my contributions and that I could make a difference towards the greater picture of patient care," Dr Ho shared. Today, he champions the Target Zero Harm campaign, a cluster-wide push towards safer care for patients.
Dr Ho draws inspiration keenly from what other countries have achieved for patient safety while acknowledging the unique landscape of Singapore's healthcare setting, its people and culture, "We cannot be totally error-free, but we can work to create systems robust enough to mitigate errors and not allow them to affect patients."
"We need to fight for better patient safety."
He emphasised, "We must create a system where it is safe for people to learn, to have humility and inculcate a continuous cycle of failing, learning and improving processes. Learn to fail, but don't fail to learn."
As more people see the value in investing in quality improvement and buy-in to the Patient Safety and Quality movement, reporting any errors and then objectively discussing them can help form preventive processes that will benefit our patients.
"We need to walk the talk, embracing change so as not to repeat mistakes."