Big Debate panelist Q&A profile: The Farrer Park Company

In the leadup to ZDNet Asia's Big Debate on Nov. 28, we put the spotlight on panelist James Woo, CIO of healthcare service provider, The Farrer Park Company.

SINGAPORE--There has been a lot of hype about big data, but are companies benefiting from it yet? What are the key challenges Singapore businesses face in capturing relevant data and extracting intelligence from it?

How can technology help resolve some of these challenges, and what is the government's role in helping Singapore companies tap data for innovation? These, among others, are just some of the big data questions panelists will be discussing at ZDNet Asia's Big Debate to be held this week on Nov. 28 at the Pan Pacific Hotel.

James Woo, Farrer Park Company
James Woo, The Farrer Park Company

Among them is James Woo, CIO of healthcare service provider, The Farrer Park Company, where he is responsible for implementing an IT system to support the company's integrated healthcare-hospitality complex comprising a specialist medical center, tertiary acute care hospital, five-star luxury hotel and retail stores.

Woo's experience in healthcare IT comprised planning and operations at both the national and cluster levels including hospitals and polyclinics, having previously served as deputy CIO of MOH Holdings. He was also CIO at Singapore telco, StarHub, where he was involved in integration efforts following the merger of StarHub and Singapore Cable Vision (SCV), and helped reduce staff turnover from over 20 percent to 9 percent.

He had joined SCV in 1998 where he led the implementation of the company's CRM system and deployed data mining to improve the use of data within the organization.

As a leadup to the panel discussion, we profile Woo in a Q&A here to get his initial thoughts about big data. Also catch our Q&A profiles of other panelists in the big debate: 

Q: How would you define big data? And what does it mean for a healthcare service provider like Farrer Park Company?
Woo: I see big data as a combination of structured and unstructured data, including semi-structured data, coming in and out at different speeds and in large volumes. And, that's only half of the whole picture given that big data analytics also are needed to extract insights and industry trends in order for organization to make sense of these datasets.

For The Farrer Park Company, big data can potentially provide our clinicians and hospital operations with additional insights on our patients and environment, improve the quality of care as well as provide a conducive environment to promote quicker healing.

What do you see as the primary challenge hindering the adoption of such technology?
If it's not cost-related, it would be having sufficient staffing or skills to support big data  analytics since big data is very new to many organizations, and the skills required will be different from those for traditional business intelligence and datawarehousing.

Identifying the desired outcome from the adoption of such technology is very critical in soliciting support and justifying for funding toward such projects.

In an ideal scenario, how do you see big data technology touching and benefiting healthcare customers?
We are still in the process of building up our medical center, hospital and hotel complex. But if I were to venture a guess on how this might take form, I would say:

•  to provide an unparalleled patient experience, be it inpatient or outpatient;
•  ideally, this level of experience is also extended to families and friends at the hotel, providing an all-encompassing user experience across the whole complex; and
•  to understand the demographics of the customer/patient including co-relating data with other similar customer/patient to establish trends, preferences, and quirks to pre-empt and "predict" the customer's likes so we can provide better service.