April 5, 2023 By May Ling Lee 3 min read

The healthcare industry’s heavy reliance on legacy systems, regulatory and security challenges are significant hurdles for its journey toward digital transformation. We saw this during the COVID-19 pandemic as many large healthcare systems scrambled to integrate digital technology at speed. While many healthcare institutions were caught off guard, SingHealth, whose mission is “Defining Tomorrow’s Medicine,” was poised to meet these challenges head on.

From cloud adoption to digital transformation, to applications management, IBM Consulting has been helping SingHealth’s IT systems and infrastructure keep the lights on for two decades. This partnership allows the public healthcare cluster to remain agile and navigate ongoing changes in compliance and technology. This means they can focus on what matters most: improving productivity and operational efficiency to produce the best patient outcomes.

An evolving partnership

SingHealth was born out of a regrouping of Singapore’s public healthcare system with the goal of better supporting an aging population and managing chronic diseases, while addressing healthcare workforce and spending growth. Today, SingHealth is the largest of Singapore’s three public healthcare clusters providing first-class healthcare, and comprises a network of four hospitals, three community hospitals, five specialty centres and nine polyclinics with more than 40 clinical specialties. Its institutions have more than 4,800 beds and see about 240,000 inpatient admissions each year.

In 2000, SingHealth’s longstanding relationship with IBM Consulting began with the design and integration of its healthcare information system. After this initial engagement, the IBM team became well-versed in SingHealth’s unique requirements, such as maintaining compliance with statutory compliance.

Hospital/Logistics/Finance digital transformation

The journey between IBM Consulting and Singapore General Hospital, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and Changi General Hospital started in 1999 when IBM Consulting implemented the three mission critical SAP Hospital/Logistics/Finance systems.

In 2003, IBM performed the consolidation of these three separate systems into one common platform. When IBM performed the complex upgrade of this system in 2009, IBM and SingHealth won the “Most Innovative” award in the SAP Awards for Customer Excellence in 2009.

In 2015, IBM received the SingHealth Enterprise Partner Award for IBM’s strong commitment in SingHealth’s successful, seamless integration, from raising purchase requisitions to making payment to vendors to eliminate manual tracking of budgets and overspending by the institutions.

In recent years, IBM also implemented many other transformations for SingHealth, including the generation of the SGQR code with the outstanding bill amount to ease patient’s payment of bills.

HR digital transformation

In 2010, SingHealth needed to consolidate the disparate HR systems across its hospitals, specialty centres and polyclinics. SingHealth again turned to IBM Consulting, along with SAP Asia Pacific Japan, to build a single HR platform.

This system replaced the siloed systems with a common platform, facilitating better collaboration among the 11 institutions involved. It also standardised policies on compensation and benefits, performance reviews and career development throughout the healthcare cluster. Following this standardisation, IBM Consulting won multiple HR awards including the SingHealth Enterprise award for its commitment as a “Partner in Our Success”.

Moving to the cloud securely

In 2016, SingHealth needed a better way to store, manage and process an ever-increasing amount of healthcare-related data. IBM Consulting facilitated the implementation and migration of their applications from physical on-premise legacy to private cloud systems.

By combining the benefits of cloud with the security and control of on-premise IT infrastructure, this solution was able to meet the stringent standards for data governance.

In 2017, the Ministry of Health launched yet another reorganisation of the public health system into three integrated regional clusters. Subsequently, IBM Consulting supported the cluster’s IT needs during the merger of the Eastern Health Alliance (EHA), located in the country’s eastern region, such as ensuring a smooth transition of the consolidation of applications across HR, finance, procurement and other critical areas.

Meeting COVID-19 challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in patient load globally. SingHealth was supported by the IBM team who stepped up to swiftly automate critical features to facilitate patient registration and billing, such as providing travel alerts during patient registration, ensuring that insurance to cover COVID-19 tests was activated, as well as applying fixed subsidies to cover COVID-19 patients in the community hospitals.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, SingHealth’s HR processes had to be adapted as well. Here, IBM Consulting worked to upgrade the cluster’s HR platform to process applications from employees who needed to take COVID-related leave.

Fulfilling statutory compliance and making continuous improvements

Building upon a foundation of strict regulatory compliance is critical for a healthcare organisation. IBM Consulting works with SingHealth to ensure the cluster complies with statutory and union requirements.

Through its application management services, IBM Consulting continues to keep SingHealth’s HR and IT systems up-to-date and in line with business functions. This enables the cluster’s healthcare workers to operate efficiently and productively.

Keeping the lights on

Today, SingHealth’s applications cater to 11 institutions with more than 33,000 employees and are designed to scale and grow with the cluster. IBM Consulting is proud to continue helping SingHealth’s IT systems and infrastructure keep the lights on, to support the cluster in its mission of defining tomorrow’s medicine. Overall, the IBM and SingHealth partnership is focused on using technology to drive innovation in healthcare and improve patient outcomes in Singapore and beyond.

Learn more about IBM Consulting here
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