HEALTHCARE | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Building back in a post-pandemic world

Industry expert Alliance Healthcare shared their experience in going through the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic halted a lot of businesses and economies across the globe, and many countries felt its impact as the world struggled to fight this new threat. Now that the world is recovering, businesses are coping with the changes the pandemic has brought and enacting new policies to help them through this period.

In an interview with Healthcare Asia, industry expert Alliance Healthcare shared what challenges and changes they went through during and after the pandemic, as well as what they think the future holds for them as healthcare providers.

The medical sector is the most affected when COVID-19 struck. A global survey by the World Health Organization (WHO) said 90% of countries reported disruptions to essential health services.

Alliance Healthcare CEO Barry Thng said during the circuit breaker, their clinic and managed healthcare solutions businesses were the most affected.

“We have five business segments—Managed Healthcare Solutions, GP Clinic Services, Specialist Care Services, Pharmaceutical Services; as well as Mobile and Digital Health Services. Our clinic and managed healthcare solutions segments were affected by the lower patient volume and suspension of elective procedures and treatments during the circuit breaker period from April to June,” he added.

On the other hand, its pharmaceutical services had a surge in revenue because of the increased demand for medical supplies.

“Our pharmaceutical services recognised a surge in revenue, rising nearly 70% year on year due to an increase in demand for medical supplies by the local hospitals stocking up in their preparation for any supply chain disruption,” Thng said.

In March, the WHO reported a threat of shortage of personal protective equipment resulting from increase in demand, hoarding, panic buying, and misuse.

Telemedicine is also thriving in today’s climate and may continue to thrive post-COVID which the Ministry of Health defined as “a key feature in Singapore’s healthcare landscape.”

“Our digital and mobile healthcare segment also made its maiden contribution to the Group in FY2020, recording revenue of $885k (S$1.2m),” Thng said.

But like other companies, Alliance Healthcare also faced a lot of challenges.

“One of the critical challenges is the mandatory requirement to rapidly transit from working in the office to remote working. We are fortunate to have invested time and effort to develop a robust business continuity plan (BCP), even before the pandemic,” Thng said

Their BCP allowed them to continue operations with minimum disruptions and to focus on growing their business and supporting their clients.

Remote working is slowly being integrated as the norm. A survey by EngageRocket in June found that 82% of Singapore’s workforce are keen on 50% work from home after the circuit breaker and only 9% don't want to work from home.

Thng said that right now, Alliance Healthcare is using remote working with plans to adopt a hybrid WFH model for the staff.

“Remote working has become the norm in our company. Moving forward, we will adopt a hybrid model to allow the flexibility for our staff to either work in the office or at their homes,” he said.

Alliance Healthcare has also employed several strategies to help their employees take care of their mental health.

“We realised it is essential to take care of the mental health of our employees. Some of the strategies we have adopted include offering tips on healthy remote working, regular communication via virtual town hall meetings, promoting mutual support and recognition among colleagues, and organising mental health workshops and exercises for our staff,” Thng said.

Digitalised future

Thng added that the future for Alliance Healthcare will greatly rely on digital technology. 

“Alliance believes digital technology is the solution to meeting patient’s demand for a higher level of convenience and personalisation of healthcare delivery. During the pandemic, we introduced telemedicine through HeyAlly, our digital healthcare app to more than 600 companies. Our subsidiary company Jaga-me Pte Ltd, a mobile healthcare company, engaged the over 500 licensed healthcare professionals on their digital platform to provide skilled nursing services to patients at their homes,” he said.

“The shift from on-site to virtual and home-based medical services will continue after the pandemic, and our experience during the pandemic has strengthened our belief towards digitalisation and expansion of our capabilities in mobile healthcare,” he added.

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