By Prasiddha Gustanto. Originally published in The Jakarta Post.
Meet a healthcare executive who aims for a pain-free experience in the workplace.
For her, ensuring this means streamlining administrative processes so that both patients and employees do not have to worry about spending time on matter that distracts from the dispensing of needed healthcare.
‘We provide the environments that better facilitate work. You can imagine if a staff has to work with a process that is very cumbersome with a lot of paperwork, then it takes away time from the patients. So from a management point of view, we make their work simpler so that they can have more time with the patients,’ said Ling, 39.
She knows from experience the challenges faced by caregivers from her years spent as a physiotherapist. Ling discussed her management approach, in staff relations and also healthcare services, during a recent visit to Jakarta.
Question: How have the years you spent as a clinician helped you become a better hospital executive?
Answer: Having experience on the frontlines as a clinician dealing directly with patients helps me to appreciate the challenges faced by doctors and nurses in caring for patients. But not just from the provider’s point of view, it also allows me to appreciate the anxiety that patients go through when they need healthcare, the difficulties they face when there is a change in the functional status or their health status, and how that family needs to adjust to change in the health situation of the loved one.
So being on the frontline allows me to better appreciate the challenges faced by staff ‘¦ over the years, as I moved into hospital management, it is something that is important and should be the policies and initiatives that we do. Essentially, it is to make sure that we continue to bring value to the patients and also to be able to empathize with patients and family members when they seek healthcare. Sometimes, they are very anxious, and that might translate to certain behavior against the healthcare workers.
People from different cultures might have different reactions to healthcare workers. As leader of an international hospital, how do you deal with these cultural barriers?
In most situations, we try to provide as much information as we can in multiple languages, so that it helps patients with language barriers or who may not be so familiar with the healthcare system or the country of Singapore when they come here to receive care. We also have our international patient service where we have translators in multiple languages so that if they truly need an interpreter, we can provide it, to help them ease their stay at Singapore. The international patient services also helps with alleviating the anxiety, not just with the language translation but things like very practical logistics, like extension of visas, booking of air-ticket, changing of money, where to stay and things like that.
You speak several different languages (English, Mandarin, Foochow) and sign language. What other job skills can help you that aren’t directly related to science or medicine?
One of the more important things is to have good listening skills, because you need to listen to your staff, patients, stakeholders (who could be the doctors as well), make sure you hear their concerns ‘¦ oftentimes, they can share with us good things we can improve on. It’s the people who care about us that share things with us so that we can improve. Sometimes patients may come with a complaint, but what they want us to do is to make things better so that other patients don’t have the same experience.
What about your outlook and policies towards employees? How do you motivate them to deliver the best that they can to patients?
In healthcare, it’s not just robots or the equipment. We depend a lot on our staff to deliver care to the patients. For staff who do good work, we should reward and recognize them, but it is also important to provide direction as to what we expect them to do. So we provide training for our staff in service excellence, in raising their skills and competencies so that they continue to provide good high-quality care to our patients.
For our staff, we provide the environments that better facilitate work. You can imagine if a staff has to work with a process that is very cumbersome with a lot of paperwork, then it takes away time from the patients. From a management point of view, we make their work simpler so that they can have more time with the patients.
What else would you consider to be challenges for Mt. Elizabeth in the days to come?
In healthcare globally, there is a shortage of manpower. One of our challenges is how to stay competitive as an employer, to be able to attract and retain the best talents who are good at their skills and are able to serve our patients well. That would be the fundamental challenge for us in healthcare.
Other challenges include the increase in competitors in this market for private healthcare. We need to continue to stay ahead so that we can continue to provide value to our patients.
What specific strategies are you using to overcome these challenges?
We need to listen to our patients. Take Indonesia. I believe the social economics and demographics are changing. More use of the Internet and digital media platforms. So how do we engage our clientele? We may not have used our website as much before, and maybe we have to do more of that now. But these are some of the changes we need to understand a bit more by talking to people in different markets. Before we jump into a solution, we should find out what’s the best thing to do first.
For a young person is trying to enter the medical industry, what’s the best advice you can give to them?
It is a calling to some extent. If you want to be a doctor or nurse, for example, you have to be prepared that the road ahead is not easy. You’ve got to study hard and work hard. You’ve got to know that there are many challenges to dealing with different patients. Usually I would tell younger people who happen to talk to me to go and see things for themselves. Do an attachment in some hospital or talk to some people. Be really sure what you’re in for. You should know what the job scope entails.
Date of Birth
- March 24, 1975
- Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Chief Operating Officer (2011-present)
- Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Deputy COO, director, deputy director (2006-11)
- Alexandra Hospital, Assistant director, executive, physiotherapist (1997-2006)
- National University of Singapore, Master’s of Business Administration ( 2002 )
- University of Manchester, UK, BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy ( 1997 )