#SMETowkay: Going Digital For Better Patient Care and Financial Health

Running a viable medical practice goes beyond putting patients on the path of recovery. As a family physician and business partner of Etern Medical Group, Dr. Lye Tin Fong does not concern himself solely with treating patients. Besides ensuring that his clinics are trusted and provide quality healthcare, Tin Fong also has to ensure that the group’s three clinics in the northeastern part of Singapore are commercially viable.

The doctor, who is in his 40s, does not shy away from his role as a proprietor who must “respect basic running costs” to sustain a clinic. This is why he invested in Assurance Technology’s clinic management system, with the help of a Productivity & Innovation Credit (PIC) grant, to reduce excess expenditure while ensuring quality services.

For starters, going digital has helped the clinics de-clutter and save space. By digitally recording doctors’ diagnosis and prescriptions, the system replaced patient cards that in the past could fill up a vending machine-sized cabinet within a year. While cards are cheap, retail spaces are not, says Tin Fong.

This storage problem has also increased as medical practice has become more information-intensive over the years. Today, with more sophisticated healthcare systems and medical technology, patients undergo more tests than before, producing many medical records to store. “Thirty to forty years ago, there’s no blood count, no liver function test,” Tin Fong explains. “Now there’s bone mineral test, mammogram, ultrasound. You stack all these reports together and it’s a very thick file!” Such thick files are now a thing of the past as the new digital records system hosts medical imaging. As it is integrated with external medical laboratories, test results can also be downloaded automatically, reducing the likelihood of patients’ data going missing.

Besides saving space by streamlining medical records, the system has also helped Tin Fong better manage the company’s inventory. With the data collected, his clinics can monitor supplies and plan their purchases better. It ranks the medicine by their demand and the clinic can then cut down on medicine that was not prescribed frequently.

Ting Fong also prides himself on improving his patients’ experience and meeting their needs. The system cuts down administrative steps, for example, by checking patients’ eligibility for government subsidies and automatically filing a claim on their behalf. While this only requires a few minutes of work, it goes a long way for the patients. “In an outpatient setting, the demand for productivity is a lot higher than what you would expect,” explains Tin Fong. “An extra minute of wait for every patient becomes a three-hour wait for the last person. Every minute counts.”

This time-saving feature, together with a queue management system, has raised the clinics’ service quality level. Freed from tending to the front desk, the nurses can focus on assisting the doctors in clinical work instead. While the clinics have always been equipped with facilities to carry out tests such as an ECG, it did not always have the manpower to use them. “When all the nurses were occupied, I had to send patients to the hospital for an ECG,” says Tin Fong.

Besides improving the quality of healthcare provided to his patients, Tin Fong recognised that technology has also made life easier for his doctors and nurses. This is one way he provides a pleasant working environment for his employees, which is just as important as meeting patients’ needs. “I can’t achieve anything if my nurses are not here and my doctors have low morale,” explains Tin Fong. The business owner may be his own boss, but for Tin Fong, he works “for my staff, and customers”.

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