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Scaling Up Business by Keeping Processes in the Pink of Health

It’s been twenty years since Alliance Healthcare was founded and the company continues to grow and expand by focusing on its processes and productivity. The company’s CEO, Dr Barry Thng shares his experiences on how SMEs can stay effective, productive and profitable while pursuing expansion goals despite tough economic climates.


Scaling Up Business by Keeping Processes in the Pink of Health

Being a “competent family doctor” was always Dr Thng’s dream. That dream has grown from the humble beginnings of a family clinic in Commonwealth Drive to a recognised Singapore brand, that provides health coverage for close to 450,000 individuals and 1,600 companies. His chain of clinics now has 20 full-time family physicians, and sees about 350,000 patients a year.

Dr Thng set up his first clinic in 1994, called Serene Family Clinic and later renamed My Family Clinic, with four fellow practicing physicians, who were his classmates and peers. Motivated by providing family medicine to more patients, he expanded My Family Clinic to 13 residential estates in Singapore. Having met patients who could not afford cancer medication for treatment, he decided to address rising healthcare costs for both individuals as well as companies. Alliance’s medical administrative services were started in 2006 with the aim of being the bridge between doctors, patients and insurers — while always ensuring quality medical care.

Like any other small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), Alliance has been through tough economic challenges. Yet the company continues to move forward, achieving S$10 million revenue growth each year for the past two years. Dr Thng’s business philosophy revolves around creating a meaningful business solution that makes an impact not just on individuals but also on society at large. Bearing this in mind, Alliance set up its wholesale pharmacy to proactively source for the latest cutting-edge cancer drugs and antibiotics, delivering them to needy patients in Singapore and regionally.

Dr Thng is a firm believer in upgrading a company’s processes, systems and workflow to facilitate growth as well as staying relevant to staff and customers. He shares his learning’s from this journey:

Never Underestimate How Processes Can Improve Costs

Every company wants and needs to stay competitive, be profitable and to expand. Besides focusing on the bigger picture in growing a business, Dr Thng advises that business owners should also take time to ensure that all the necessary pillars and processes are in place so that their company can scale and pursue growth opportunities readily, exploring organic and inorganic growth.

“In our business, we handle and process a larger number of medical claims, therefore it is very important to be extremely efficient in our work processes,” states Dr Thng. Bearing this in mind, Alliance developed its own proprietary IT system to optimise work processes and reduce human error. In addition, the company has an inpatient claims system where all the pre-agreed prices of the various surgeries are in-built, increasing transparency and reducing the need for manual checks.

With support from SPRING Singapore’s (now Enterprise Singapore1) Capability Development Grant, Alliance embarked on a number of productivity-enhancing initiatives including the creation of an online appointment request application, which auto-populates appointments to a patient data system and sends confirmation notices to members via text messages. According to Dr Thng, this once labour-intensive process lacked real-time visibility to facilitate decision-making. Having the systems in place ensures that reports are now completed within half a day, resulting in an estimated 50 to 85 percent improvement in productivity.

“For Alliance, these improvements have reaped higher customer satisfaction due to faster response times. Coupled with the availability of real-time data from reports generated by the system, management is able to make quick business decisions allowing us to focus on more value-added tasks. Enhancing internal processes is the only way companies can continue to expand while still staying lean and keeping operating costs low,” elaborates Dr Thng.

The company is now looking at fully automating its HR processes, which should be completed within the next two years.

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Get the Right Team on Board to Expand

Talent attraction and development is another area that companies should focus on to fuel growth, says Dr Thng. One of his key beliefs is that management should be aware and involved in the interviewing process. “This way, the company’s vision and mission can be shared directly with the candidates — encouraging excitement and passion in the job from the start.

Alliance is constantly on the lookout for talented individuals within each department, be they doctors, nurses, pharmacists or front facing staff, with different skill sets to take the company to new heights and grow their regional footprint. When asked what Alliance looks for in employees, Dr Thng shares that it is important for staff to appreciate the healthcare services business and who are keen to serve the community. They also look out for highly-driven and motivated individuals who are willing to journey with the company on new ventures and into new markets. For example, the company recently recruited someone with vast experience in the overseas pharmaceutical market to pave their way into these markets.

Looking ahead, Dr Thng aims to grow the ‘My Family Clinic’ brand to one that many more would resonate with. To achieve this, Alliance will continue improving and upgrading its work processes as well as building a team of leaders and professionals to scale up its operations. The company also plans to grow its wholesale pharmacy into a regional hub, supplying cutting-edge medicines to countries like Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and China.

Visit https://spring.enterprisesg.gov.sg/CDG to find out how the Capability Development Grant can support your business upgrading projects.

1SPRING Singapore merged with IE Singapore to form Enterprise Singapore on 1 April 2018.

Last Modified Date: 04 Oct 2018