An Agile culture – the key to the future of healthcare

The director of allied health at Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara, James Chong, believes the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just why it is important for hospitals to adopt an Agile mindset.

When the COVID-19 outbreak first occurred, many hospitals around the world found themselves underprepared for the demands of the pandemic.

From insufficient medical supplies – such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and oxygen respirators – to a lack of beds, to a shortage of qualified medical professionals, hospitals initially struggled to deal with the fallout from COVID-19.

What made matters worse was that for a number of healthcare providers, their failure to innovate and digitalise before the pandemic meant they could not tap onto the various technologies available to assist them with the multitude of challenges they faced.

While the healthcare industry subsequently underwent a long overdue digital transformation, and eventually adapted to cope with the pandemic, the early days of COVID-19 showed just how important it was for hospitals to adopt a forward-looking and Agile mindset.

What is agile?

At its core, Agile is a project management philosophy that, when implemented effectively, helps to streamline workplace processes and bring about a whole host of other benefits for the organisation.

A team-based approach to project management, Agile provides guiding values – in place of strict processes – that enables teams to decide how to prioritise their work, communicate, and adapt to the challenges that come their way.

One example of Agile in the context of healthcare is allowing teams and individuals to tweak planning processes to meet specific patient needs, thus leading to greater potential for innovation within the hospital.

According to a study done by Bain & Company in 2019, 75% of healthcare executives responded that their Agile teams were outperforming their traditional teams. The same study also indicated that 60% of the respondents said it was crucial to be able to adapt rapidly to the changing needs of their patients, especially as the industry continues to evolve.

Having an Agile mindset is something that James Chong, the director of allied health at Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara, firmly believes will prepare the healthcare industry for the future.

“I foresee that healthcare will reform with an agile workforce,” Chong told Hospital Management Asia (HMA). “The Agile mindset has already been implemented in the banking, finance and IT sector, and the time is ripe for healthcare to get on board.

“Most hospitals are still in the transition phase of digital transformation…by using the Agile and Scrum framework, they can make their ongoing digital journey a much smoother one.”

Chong added that with an Agile mindset, healthcare providers can get ahead of potential issues in the future, especially if they tap onto the vast array of healthcare technologies in the market today.

Highlighting the example of how there was an increase in the demand for remote consultation services during the pandemic, Chong said: “When the pandemic struck, there was a drop in the number of in-person visits. Instead, patients started using teleconsultation services, and went online to buy their medication, medical devices and other supplies.

“For healthcare organisations, especially at the C-suite level, they have to understand the perspective of what the customer is thinking. So, in this case, it’s getting in the tools to allow for teleconsultations and remote monitoring.

“But instead of waiting for situations like the pandemic to happen before reacting, hospitals with an Agile mindset would have already planned and prepared for such an eventuality, by bringing in the necessary technologies to meet the patients’ needs.”

Going green with Malaysia’s proposed healthcare reforms

In a bid to ‘future proof’ Malaysia’s healthcare system, the country’s health minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, recently submitted a white paper that proposed several key reforms and initiatives.

Apart from highlighting his hope for the first 5G hospital in Malaysia to be set up, Khairy also emphasised the significance of sustainability and green technology.

“I want our hospitals and facilities to be more environmentally friendly using green tech. Many of our new buildings have been winning the green index and so on, but we must, as a ministry, commit ourselves to more sustainability,” said Khairy.

Agreeing with the reforms proposed, Chong revealed that his hospital is following the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals strategy as part of their efforts to ‘go green’.

He elaborated: “We’re trying to enhance our EMR system so that we can use less paper and go green. To that end, our focus over the next few years will be on automation, as that will help us towards our goal of being paper-lite.

“In fact, our hospital is trying to get automation for our laboratory and pharmacy. One of the benefits that brings is that it reduces the chances of human error. After all, when there is error in healthcare, the compensation can be pretty high. But by innovating and using creative technology, we can not only minimise the risk of mistakes, but also increase our work productivity.”

Chong reiterated that his hospital will continue to work on their ESG commitment. Indeed, their efforts to go green have not gone unnoticed, with the hospital receiving the silver certification from GreenRE (Green Real Estate) – a government recognised certification body that aims to drive sustainability in Malaysia’s real estate industry.

New cancer centre set to launch this year

Perhaps the most exciting development in 2022 for Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara, however, is the upcoming launch of a new integrated cancer centre, named Oncology@Thomson Hospital.

Expected to be officially opened in the second quarter of this year, the cancer centre is expected to serve as a one-stop facility for all things oncology-related.

Given that it is set to boast state-of-the-art equipment, including the AnyScan® SPECT-CT-PET triple modality system, which allows clinicians to perform five separate studies – SPECT-CT-PET, SPECT-CT, PET-CT, SPECT, and multi-slice CT – the cancer centre will offer a multitude of advanced diagnosis and treatments for their patients. This includes chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy and nuclear medicine.

In addition, Chong says the centre – which is set to boast seamless integration with EMR, from registration to patient discharge – will look to educate people on the importance of screening as a form of cancer prevention.

He said: “We are trying to build up the awareness and tell people that even though COVID-19 is now the main concern, cancer is also one of the top-five problems for both men and women. That is why we’re trying to emphasise the importance of screening, because it is one of the ways of prevention.

“By setting up this cancer centre, we will now have the capability to not only screen our patients, but to also treat them with the best equipment and specialists. We believe the new technologies and machines that we have brought in for the centre will be able to improve the quality of care for our patients.”


James Chong will be part of a panel discussion on the challenges of digitalisation in hospitals at HMA’s upcoming webinar – How to plan your digitalisation roadmap? Click here for more details, and to sign up for the webinar. Admission is free.