Farrer Park Hospital is in the realm of disrupting the healthcare norm
CEO of Farrer Park Hospital, Dr Timothy Low, brings a strong leadership background in managing award-winning hospitals. Prior to his current role, Dr Low served as CEO of Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore. Through his leadership, the hospital established itself as a six-star private healthcare provider, clinching 14 local and regional awards including the prestigious Asian Hospital Management Award, as well as the ‘National Work Redesign Model Company’ by Spring Singapore, a governing agency for innovation. Under Low’s leadership, revenues grew by 42 percent to over USD$100 million.
Having also served in senior management positions for pharmaceutical and medical device industries in the Asia Pacific region, Dr Low’s breadth of exposure allowed him to pioneer the establishment of a global contract research organization, validating Singapore as its regional headquarters. Turning back to Farrer Park, we asked him all about the project.
1. How long had the hospital been under construction before opening in March 2016? How big a project and investment has this been?
First conceptualized by a group of doctors in 2008, the S$800 million 20 storey complex was completed after five years of construction. This is the first development in Asia to house a hospital, medical centre and a hotel and spa under a single building.
The hospital has a capacity of 220 beds, and is directly connected to the Farrer Park Medical Centre which houses 189 clinics over 10 floors for more than 400 medical specialists across a broad range of specialties.
2. Describe the unique offerings provided by Farrer Park Hospital. What is the rationale behind doing something completely different, and what feedback have you received?
Singapore is a unique medical destination due to its reputation for excellent clinical care, and also its high standards of patient services and dedication to research and wellness. As a private tertiary hospital, they aim to bring these benefits along with ultimate convenience, cutting edge technology and five-star personalized care for patients.
Farrer Park Hospital is the first hospital in Asia closely integrated with a medical centre and a five-star hotel and spa within the same building. Named Connexion, this integrated building renewed the concept of medical tourism and hospitality like no other. The union of these two elements has sparked a fresh approach by aligning hotel quality ambiance together with clinical standards with its attention to detail across all facets within the facility.
The hospital has followed a biophilic architecture approach throughout the facility, incorporating nature and art to enhance healing. By striving to have the restful ambiance of a hotel, in addition to the proximity of doctors and family under the same roof, as well as using technology to enable seamless and speedy decision making; all this is undertaken in support of better patient outcome and shorter stays.
Some of the compliments the hospital has received circle around the unique features they have painstakingly paid attention to - a traditional hospital would not carve out 15 gardens at multiple levels throughout the facility so that patients and families can have places to feel the warmth of the sun and breathe fresh air whenever they like. The facility also hosts a private collection of over 700 commissioned Asian paintings meant to enhance the healing environment through visual sensory.
Despite the land scarcity in Singapore, fewer paid parking lots have been intentionally designed, making them one and a half times the size of a standard lot to allow a patient on crutches to comfortably extend the car door fully. Insisting on a curved sink so that surgeons will not have water dripping down their elbows after scrubbing his or her hands and a bath bench with a cut out allows patients to wash themselves independently. This may seem unnecessary but these innovative approaches translate to actual benefits to those who ‘value’ them.
Everyone has the same end goal, a good experience and better patient outcome. The hospital’s strategy is simple. They take their responsibilities to patients, their families and the clinicians seriously. Attend to their needs, anticipate their wants, and find the best way to address these concerns through innovation and technology. This ultimately brings value to patients.
The hospital is leading the way in healthcare innovation and is a premier institution for medical care and education that is based upon three important tenets for the patient -- comfort, fairness and value. Top accredited medical staff, along with state-of-the-art equipment and technology, contributes to increased efficiency, reduced cost, and most, importantly improved patient outcomes.
3. Tell us about your principles of value, comfort and fairness.
The core values of Farrer Park Hospital form the very basis of the culture and the way they approach their work. Their aim to provide patient’s comfort, fairness and value is deeply engraved into every detail from clinical and service excellence to the finer design elements within the environment.
The hospital’s care philosophy extends beyond healing and the management of disease to engaging patients in pursuit of good health. Healing does not end after a successful operation or about coming to the hospital for a procedure and then recuperating at home. It is about having the best and most comfortable services to get the patient on their feet. Having a family support structure close by, where relatives can stay close to the hospital is essential in the rehabilitation process. That is why, as part of Connexion, the hospital is Asia’s first, integrated lifestyle hub for healthcare and wellness that is linked to a five-star hotel and spa.
Patients are treated by an experienced team of medical and healthcare specialists in an environment meticulously designed to maximize comfort and efficiency while promoting well-being, rest and recovery. Throughout the facility, patients will find that attention has been given to every aspect and detail of the facility – from the comfort of patients, to its impact on the environment, to the speed and ease of obtaining medical attention and to the maintenance of hygiene.
4. How does Farrer Park Hospital make use of technology to enhance its offering to patients and visitors?
Farrer Park Hospital is designed and built to be a hospital of the future, combining innovation in medical care and medical education. We embrace technology and improve medical care through its state-of-the-art equipment that facilitates telemedicine consulting services across the world. To ensure seamless and rapid flow of information between the admission services, inpatient areas, operating rooms, diagnostic and therapeutic centres, clinical laboratories and medical clinics, the hospital’s 18 operating rooms are linked via fibre-optic connections to various locations through the Connexion campus, including the hospital’s education centre and lecture hall, teaching clinics and tutorial rooms as well as the hotel’s function rooms.
The campus has all the fibre-optic cables and IP (Internet Protocol) core built in during construction. There are 8,300 data points within the complex. In terms of wireless connectivity, there are 650 Wi-Fi access points. Hence the whole building is actually a digital complex, integrating the hotel, hospital and medical centre. This digital communication is important to ensure seamless patient care and customer service.
The healthcare industry tends to be slow in adopting technology but Farrer Park Hospital aims to be the healthcare disruptor and they want to leapfrog the healthcare hospitality scene. The seamlessness of information flow was the focus at the onset of the project. This hospital was planned to be technologically relevant for the next 20 years, because the future for healthcare is going to be digital-focused and technology-based.
Some of the latest technologies include:
(a) Virtual Desktop Interactive. Doctors can view a patient's tests results to order medication remotely from anywhere in the world.
(b) MicroDose Mammography. Women tend to skip this process as they find it to be an uncomfortable procedure.
The unique feature of the hospital’s machine, the MicroDose Mammography, is that both top and bottom plates of the mammogram are ergonomically curved, promoting comfort for women. The carbon fibre wrapped base plate also helps to reduce the coldness of metal plates. The machine uses an efficient method of scanning through a sweeping motion instead of the conventional trajectory and this technique can effectively reduce the amount of radiation used by up to 50 percent.
(c) CT Scan. The hospital has the latest CT Scan which can slice 640 times within one second. To find how much blockage there is in an artery, the hospital normally undertakes an angiogram, which requires inserting wires into the groin. And when they take the wires out, medical staff need to press for a while to stop the bleeding. Now we can do a CT Angiogram, there is no need for an invasive procedure. We just have to go through the scanner, and within one heartbeat of a second, the scanner would have captured all the coronary (heart) vessels. So the procedure only needs 10 mins instead of staying one day for an angiogram.
(d) Washable and waterproof beds. The hospital’s beds are specially made in Germany and are fully washable. A normal bed in other hospitals usually undergo a wipe down when patients discharge. Farrer Park’s beds are waterproof and a thorough wash allows for better infection control and saves time.
5. How have you approached recruitment at the hospital?
Farrer Park Hospital is the first private hospital to serve as a teaching site, with medical students from Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The Board of Directors saw the need for private players to support the Singapore healthcare infrastructure and capacity building. The teaching infrastructure was planned during its construction which includes specially sized and designed teaching clinics, lecture theatre, seminar rooms as well as access to large conference facilities.
Students have the opportunity to attend selected classes organized by and implemented on-site at Farrer Park. The medical students will also benefit from specialists who are practicing at the hospital and also appointed as academic clinical teachers to lecture at NTU. These courses may include beaming of live tutorials directly from the operating rooms or special medical seminars held at the hotel ballroom.
6. What types of physician are you attracting?
The environment at Farrer Park Hospital is about clinical and service excellence, supported by physical and technological constructs that facilitates both these endeavors. We are building a culture of fairness and promoting decision making that is free from self-interest and toward better patient outcome. Doctors who join must be aware that the hospital takes the code of comfort, fairness and value seriously.
7. What does it mean to be recognised with an award for Best New Hospital of the Year in Asia Pacific?
The award, jointly organised by Global Health & Travel and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, where they conducted a survey among 6,500 consumers across 12 countries in Asia Pacific. They assessed the accessibility of the facilities of the hospital, hotel and medical centre, patient care and equipment. And Farrer Park won the award, as consumers' choice for the Best New Hospital of the Year in Asia Pacific.
An institution built by healthcare practitioners has its advantage as we place emphasis on every detail. Consistent with their care philosophy, patients will discover that much attention has been placed on every aspect – from the comfort of our patients, to its impact to the environment, the efficiency and ease of obtaining medical attention and to the maintenance of hygiene. With the recognition of this award, the hospital looks forward to strengthen its processes and implement more training sessions to ensure a consistent, five-star hotel service quality standard towards its stakeholders.
8. How do you plan to build on this success?
Farrer Park Hospital has won seven awards in just six months after its official opening in March 2016. These recognitions are a testimony to the service and clinical excellence within the organisation and they are ever motivated to continue raising the bar of the Farrer Park Experience through continuous training and inculcating the ‘Farrer Park Service Mindset’ into employees.
The hospital also intends to grow the existing 500 staff to 800 in the next two years and expand their range of medical disciplines offered.
9. What is your vision for Farrer Park?
Farrer Park Hospital will be an award winning five-star hospital and at the top of the mind for private healthcare seekers. The facility will be recognised for offering treatments for complex cases in a fair and affordable manner. The hospital aims to attract more private patients from emerging markets such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh who require specialised treatments.
Farrer Park hopes to break even within five years, much ahead of the usual eight years in traditional hospitals due to their innovations and technological advancements.
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.