Through a Patient's Lens
I disembark from my car with ease, onto my wheelchair. Each individual carpark is spatially designed for ease of manoeuvring. Wheeling into Farrer Park Hospital, my spirits are immediately alleviated by the gentle floral scent wafting in the air. It reminds me of the aroma of a hotel or a posh shopping mall. The warm secular design tones of my surroundings make me comfortable and cosy. Greeted by warm smiles from the counter staffs in the spacious lobby area, I am happy my check-in is fast and without hiccups. I swoosh past the sliding doors into the medical centre, pleasantly surprised by the dimmed violet lighting at the lift waiting area. It provides a calm soothing atmosphere, a juxtaposition to the harsher white light used in most areas without distinction in other hospitals. My imminent medical procedures do not seem quite as intimidating anymore.
Relaxing comfortably in my hospital bed after my treatment, I am kept occupied by the array of activities available on my personal tablet, attached on a convenient adjustable stand. Top priority is placing my meal order. I am spoilt for choice - laksa, linguine vongole, tandoori chicken, brownie, apple custard pie, and the list goes on. I was reassured by my doctor that all ingredients related to my food allergies have been removed, and each of my 6 meals spread throughout the day would be below 600 calories. Such thoughtfulness and ease of settling my meals makes me a happier person. I do a spot of in-room shopping and surfing from my same handy tablet, browsing through books and the Kris Shop. Being a man of convenience, I am very pleased to know I can pick up my items on board my SIA flight back home. I decide to venture out to soak up some sun in the gardens. I smile as the sunrays warm my skin, as I take in the vibrant colours of the fruits and vegetables planted in neat rows. My nose tingles in delight at the light aroma emanating from the herbs growing alongside.
Guessing it being a good time for a bath, I head back to my hospital suite, and discover the shower area has a bench with a cut-out. "Great! No need to go through the embarrassment of having the nurses to assist me," I thought gratefully.
After a successful operation, all I have left to do is to recuperate. I am transferred to the 5 Star hotel integrated within Farrer Park's Connexion complex. I'm glad for this option of cheaper yet comfortable recovery in a hotel. The relocation is so smooth and contained within the grounds of the complex, relieving the need to face the hustle and bustle of the outdoor traffic. Knowing that my doctor is just minutes away, my mind is at ease as I sink into the plush covers of my bed for a good rest.
Connexion - Hospital + Hotel + Specialist Medical Centre
Singapore is a unique medical destination due to its reputation for excellent clinical care and its high standards of patient services and dedication to research and wellness. Connexion at Farrer Park officially opened on the 16 March 2016. It is the first-of-its-kind fully integrated healthcare-hospitality complex. Costing SG$800 million, Farrer Park Hospital integrates One Farrer Hotel and Spa, as well as Farrer Park Medical Centre. This positioning of all 3 facilities within the Connexion complex provides patients much convenience and comfort.
Farrer Park hospital focuses on 3 core values: Comfort, Fairness and Value. Prices are kept affordable, while providing the highest quality of healthcare. High attention to detail towards patient comfort is provided.
Farrer Park Hospital has a total of 220 beds and more than 400 accredited specialists, who provide a range of specialty services, such as cardiology, oncology, orthopaedic gastroenterology and ophthalmology just to name a few. There is also a 24-hour emergency clinic catered to the vicinity.
Patients and visitors can enjoy 15 gardens scattered within Connexion, including The Farm@Farrer, which grows fruits, vegetables and herbs, used specially for the preparation of patient meals. Patients enjoy hotel meals uniquely prepared by renowned chefs, with calories less than 600 in total for each meal.
Farrer Park Hospital is also the first private hospital to be a teaching site for undergraduate medical students from Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at Nanyang Technological University. Each of the 18 operating rooms is connected by multi-channel audio-video fibres to the hotel ballroom, hotel function rooms, teaching clinics, tutorial rooms and lecture halls within the complex.
Interview with Dr Timothy Low, CEO, Farrer Park Hospital
1. Connexion is a first-of-its-kind hospital-hotel complex in Singapore and the region. When did this project start, and why was this location chosen as the site for the building?
The building was conceptualised 8 years ago and the actual construction began about 5 years ago in 2009. It was built from the ground up, and this location was chosen for its rich 170 year history. Our late founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew conducted his first PAP independence rally at Farrer Park unveiling the word "Merdeka" in 1995. We also wanted it to be accessible to public transportation. Farrer Park MRT Station is located right next to our building.
The design of Connexion which encompasses a hospital, medical centre and luxury hotel within a single building, renewed the concept of medical tourism and hospitality. The union of these 2 elements sparked a fresh approach by aligning hotel quality ambience, together with clinical standards in its attention to detail across all facets within the facility.
2. Connexion emphasises connectivity within the complex. Could you elaborate on this concept?
Our aim in Connexion was to achieve a seamless integration of hotel, hospital, and medical centre, connected like a kueh lapis (layered cake, a traditional Malay food). This physical connectivity between the hotel, hospital and medical centre, all using a simple access card, is unique. The concept of a hospital near a hotel is not new; however, to integrate it to this level is something novel.
Besides physical connectivity, technology connectivity is very important as well. The healthcare industry tends to be laggards in technology and technology adoption in hospitals is relatively slow. Farrer Park Hospital aims to be the healthcare disruptor and we 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. If we don’t incorporate technology within the hospital now, it is going to be very expensive to install in future.
Farrer Park complex has all the fibre-optic cables and IP (Internet Protocol) core built in during construction. There are 8300 data points within the complex. In terms of wire connectivity, there are 650 wifi 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.
3. As a new private healthcare service provider in Singapore, what qualities does Farrer Park Hospital (FPH) possess to win itself the Best Hospital of the Year in Asia Pacific Award?
The award was the Global Health & Travel (GHT) Award, jointly organised by GHT and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, where they conducted a survey among 6500 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 we won the award, as consumers' choice for the Best New Hospital of the Year in Asia Pacific.
Being an institution built by healthcare practitioners has its advantage as we place our emphasis on every detail. Consistent with our care philosophy, patients will discover that much attention has been place 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.
4. What are some unique features of Farrer Park Hospital (FPH), that make it stand out in attracting both local and foreign patients?
(a) The architecture of Connexion reflects the deep commitment to creating a true learning environment. We followed a biophilic architecture approach throughout the facility, incorporating nature and art to enhance healing. The facilities also hosts a private collection of over 700 commissioned Asian paintings meant to enhance the healing environment.
(b) If you walk around, there is a nice aroma around the hospital. Why is smell important? We take all the five senses into consideration when we build this place. The sense of smell affects our mood. A study found that 75% of our mood is affected by smell.
(c) You could say we are different in how we view private healthcare. 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. Gardens provide a soothing effect for families and relatives who are worried while they wait for their loved ones during procedures; and also for patients themselves. We also have an organic farm here, where we plant 51 different spices, fruits, and vegetables that our kitchen uses. Our close integration with the hotel also allows us to tap on their kitchen for preparation of patient meals, providing high quality food specially ordered through a personal tablet.
(d) In land-scarce Singapore, a typical businessperson would not have allowed for fewer paid parking lots, which are 1.5 times the size of a standard lot, to allow a patient on crutches to comfortably extend the car door fully to disembark.
(e) A standard project manager would not have insisted that contractors construct a curved sink so that surgeons will not have water dripping down their elbows after scrubbing their hands, or a bath bench with a cut out that allows patients to sit while washing themselves. This may seem unnecessary but these doctor and patient-friendly approaches translate to actual benefits to people who ‘value’ them.
(f) Each patient has their personal tablet, for shopping, ordering of meals and entertainment. If the patients or their families are bored, they can do in-room shopping on their tablet. Patients are spoilt for choice, with more than 600 items that can be delivered within 30 minutes. If they wish to read books, over 1000 books are available for purchase from their tablet. These books will be delivered from Kinokuniya to their bedside within 3 hours. We are also linked to Kris Shop, where patients can order duty-free items from their bedside and pick up their items on board their flight. The tablet serves as a link to the patient's database as well, for the doctors' reference. This saves on cost and is environmentally friendly as well, as we don't need to print out their records. These are very unique things we have.
5. Since its official opening in March this year, how many patients has Farrer Park Hospital admitted so far?
The hospital currently sees about 50% local and 50% foreign patients. Even though medical tourism is increasingly popular, FPH is built to serve the local population with hopes of improving the services and providing value for patients. We have seen more than 4800 surgeries to date with less than 1 per cent mortalities.
Foreign patients come from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, a few from USA and China. We are getting visibility out to these countries. Although Singapore’s currency is high, the advantage we have is that we can get treatment done almost immediately. We also have patients coming in from Australia for certain procedures such as knee and hip replacement. There are patients from the Middle East as well, who seek treatment in Asia as they may face logistical difficulties in other places. We are also seeing more Russians seeking treatment here as well.
Patients from China are a large market too. They come mostly for oncology treatment and Farrer Park Hospital houses many experienced specialists among the oncology field. For Chinese patients, the most paramount issue is getting the latest treatments for cancer. Approval for new cancer drugs in China may take a much longer time as compared to Singapore where our treatments are current and to date.
Furthermore, the Singapore government is implementing measures to ensure that its citizens are insured either partially or fully against diseases, especially for the older generation. Despite the rising medical costs, these measures will help to ensure affordability on the out of pocket expenses.
6. With the presence of rising competition from other countries such as Malaysia and Thailand, what do you think will make foreign patients consider Farrer Park Hospital in Singapore as their choice for treatment?
Housed under a single building, the spatial planning is unique and could be considered one of the novel designed developments around the region. We have created a medical destination where all medical consultations, treatment and accommodation needs are well taken care of and located within the same vicinity.
To remain competitive, we focus on our core values of providing Comfort, Fairness and Value for our stakeholders. In terms of value, we want to ensure that patients are offered the best care and service for a reasonable fee. An example would be when a foreign patient is coming for a surgical treatment, they would be admitted to the inpatient suites where nursing care and medications are administered. When the patient is recovering earlier than expected and nursing care is not required, they can opt to stay at the hotel and visit the doctor for review until they are fit to return home. This would greatly reduce the cost for the patient, provide better rehabilitation space for patients to heal and enhances the convenience for their follow up consultations.
Farrer Park Hospital is the first private hospital to become a teaching site, with medical students from Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at Nanyang Technological University. With strong focus on education, service and clinical excellence, FPH will remain a strong contender for medical seekers in Singapore.
7) How does FPH ensure that its quality of healthcare services is maintained at optimal standard?
As mentioned above, the hospital values education and training of our healthcare professionals to ensure they are in the know of the current advances in medical care. Our facility is also wired completely, any tests and treatments are automated whenever possible and the information is sent in real time to all stakeholders who require it. Our doctors can access this technology and make decisions as if they are in the hospital anywhere in the world.
We abide above and beyond the stringent criteria MOH sets for all hospitals. Almost everything is audited to ensure patient safety. There are more than 13 committees set up to audit and advise on all processes from management of hospital practices, down to the issuance of practicing privileges to our doctors. We also conduct monthly multidisciplinary discussions on complex medical cases through our Professional Governance Committee.
Above a transport hub and under the same roof as a hotel, our infection control standards are also constantly scrutinized and audited. For example, during pandemic periods, the hospital can be separated and locked down from the Medical Centre and Hotel. The hospital also has sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to safeguard our patients and staff for months.
8. Please tell us some examples of the types of medical technology and equipment used in Farrer Park Hospital? Are there unique tech/equipment that set Farrer Park Hospital apart?
Farrer Park Hospital embraces technology and improves medical care through its state-of-the-art equipment that facilities telemedicine consulting services across the world. To ensure seamless and rapid flow of information between the admission services, inpatient areas, operating theatres, 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 complex, including the hospitals’ education centre and lecture hall, teaching clinics and tutorial rooms as well as the hotel’s function rooms.
We currently have the best equipment in the whole Singapore. Being a new hospital has its advantages and Farrer Park Hospital is future proofed for the next 20 years. As such, our equipments are of the latest version at this point in time. Of course, if another newer hospital comes out, they will prefer to buy the latest as well.
(a) Dr Virtual Desktop. Doctors can view a patient's tests results to order medication as if they are in the hospital, from anywhere in the world.
(b) MicroDose Mammography. As women ages, they will need to do a mammogram every 2 years to screen for abnormalities in their breast. Though much women may skip this process as they find it a painful procedure due to the breasts being compressed during the process.
The unique feature of our machine, MicroDose Mammography, is that both top and bottom plates of the mammogram are ergonomically curved which promotes 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 convention trajectory and this technique can effectively reduce the amount of radiation used by up to 50%.
(c) CT Scan. We have the latest CT Scan, which can slice 640 times within 1 second. To find how much blockage there is in an artery, we normally do an angiogram, which requires inserting wires into the groin. And when you take the wires out, you need to press for a while to stop the bleeding. Now we can do a CT Angiogram, there is no need for invasive procedure. We just have to go through the scan, and within 1 heartbeat of a second, the scan 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. Our beds are specially made in Germany and are fully washable. A normal bed in other hospitals usually undergoes a wipe down when patients discharge. Our beds are waterproofed and a thorough wash allows for better infection control and saves time.
9. In your opinion, what is the predictive trend of medical tourism industry in the Asia Pacific region?
Singapore’s medical tourism started more than 10 years ago. Due to our stronger currency against Indonesian and Malaysian currency for example, Singapore sort of plateaued, in terms of foreigners coming in for medical tourism.
However, now with Malaysia is pushing for medical tourism, they will bring in patients from other countries into this region. We will ride on this wave, taking advantage of the fact that no other hospital has been able to position themselves in terms of hospitality and healthcare.
About the Interviewee
Dr. Timothy Low
Chief Executive Officer
Farrer Park Hospital Singapore
A medical doctor by training, Dr. Timothy Low was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Farrer Park Hospital in September 2015. He is responsible for the strategy and growth of the hospital in Singapore and the region.
Dr. Low has 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry spanning across pharmaceutical, medical devices and healthcare services. Prior to joining Farrer Park Hospital, Dr Low was Chief Executive Officer of Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore, where he established it as an award-winning private healthcare provider in the region. Dr. Low has also previously served in senior management positions for pharmaceutical and medical device industries in the Asia Pacific region.
With his vast experience and contributions to the industry, Dr. Low is listed in the ranks of Stanford Who’s Who.
Dr. Low graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He is also a graduate of the NUS Graduate School of Business, Stanford University Executive Programme and Singapore Management University Asia Pacific Hospital Management Programme.