Since January 2021, SGH has centralised all its patient bill enquiries, including inpatient, outpatient and MediSave claims - at Business Office which is going counter-less by June 2021.
"For outpatients, now if they have any questions about their bill, they just need to speak to one staff. Previously, the patient would have to enquire at different clinics if they have multiple comorbidities," said Chiew Pei Pei, Manager, Business Office.
This is a vast improvement over the previous arrangement where patients had to go to the clinic to process their bills, and to a separate office to process MediSave claims, in addition to their stops at the clinic for consultation and the pharmacy for medication.
"Also with a single point-of-contact for billing enquiries, our clinic staff now have more time to help patients with their registration and scheduling of appointments, as well as to assist the doctors," said Pei Pei.
Goodbye frontline, hello backroom
Pei Pei led the team – staff from the now-defunct Outpatient MediSave Services (OMS), set up 15 years ago to process outpatient MediSave claims for chronic conditions - that experienced a two-step transformation.
OMS was closed in August 2019 as a counter service, and instead started serving patients over the phone and through email from a backend office at SGH Block 3, Level 1, near Medical Social Services. In addition, they also started handling all outpatient clinic bills enquiry, not just MediSave claims pertaining to medication.
"Initially, the staff found it more challenging to manage the patient virtually as they couldn't see the patient's body language," said Pei Pei. "They also had to learn how to provide clarifications on all outpatient billing enquiries."
Pei Pei and her team of supervisors came up with a whole slew of training to prepare the staff for their new roles. "Writing email may seem simple to many of us. But my staff hardly used emails in their previous frontline roles. They were afraid but still they tried. However, they struggled and their messages were often unclear, or came across as rude unintentionally. I came up with a standard template to help them," shared Pei Pei.
The OMS team was involved in the process transformation as they took part in a QI project and went through the journey of exploration and reviews. This transformation cloud had a silver lining. "Now that the patients were not standing right in front of them, the staff felt less stressed because the feeling of being 'chased' to solve the problem had been removed," explained Pei Pei.
Under one roof at Business Office
Understandably, the team was shocked when they were informed of the merger with Business Office which took effect in January 2021, coming just 15 months after OMS was closed.
"There is virtually no change for this team of staff, hence the short runway," explained Pei Pei. "It's just that we now belong to a bigger unit called the Business Office where knowledge and competency about billing matters can be shared."
To reassure them, engagement sessions with senior management, Business Office and Human Resource were held to assure staff that there would be no change to their reporting structure or job scope - even their office would be the same.
"Actually the one most affected is me," mused Pei Pei. "Because my job scope has expanded to include A&E, cancer, renal dialysis and MediShield claims. It has only been 5 months so there is still a lot that I don't know. I just mentally prepare myself to work longer hours for now as the on-job-learning curve is steep. Thankfully, my Business Office supervisor and colleagues are supportive and patient with me."
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