This 26-year-old invents tools to help doctors’ work

Wanting to help others with his engineering skill sets, Kai Siang took on a role at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Liam Willett

Aspiring cat dad.

Published: 14 October 2022, 12:32 PM

In the past, asthmatic patients with arthritis would find themselves having some difficulties when using the inhaler due to joint pains. Now, they are able to use an inhaler lever attachment to ease the process of self-administering the medication.

The device was made possible by a team of innovation technologists at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), one of whom is 26-year-old Chung Kai Siang.

In his day-to-day work, Kai Siang assists colleagues and staff in the hospital by innovating and developing products and processes to improve the care delivery process.

Some products that the team has innovated include a comfortable face shield for frontline health workers and a holder that secures sensitive medical apparatus.

It was first identified by healthcare professionals that some sensitive medical apparatus could be easily contaminated if not handled with care. Hence, Kai Siang and his team came up with the idea of a holder. The holder helps reduce the risk of contamination and in turn lowers the possibility of infections. 

Kai Siang shares that his colleagues who utilised the innovation were able to do their job with more ease and could provide better care for the patients. This is why he finds his work meaningful.


Kai Siang can design products with 3D modelling software in as short as half a day before 3D printing the prototypes to test out his ideas. GIF CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/LIAM WILLETT


His first exposure to developing parts with machines started in his polytechnic days. There, as part of Nanyang Polytechnic’s Diploma in Digital and Precision Engineering, he learnt to develop parts for various industries such as aerospace, oil and gas industries.

However in his current field of work, Kai Siang focuses more on human-centred design and gathers insights including the user’s needs and wants before scaling to production.

Kai Siang would seek information from colleagues for information such as how to make a product fit better for the user. On top of his colleagues, he also turns to his reporting officer, Chua Jia Xiang, who has been a mentor to him since day one.

“When the team was very small, when we just had three, four people, he (was) a great inspiration (to) me. I was impressed with his skills to engage with many people and many stakeholders,” says Kai Siang.


Kai Siang primarily uses a 3D printer to create prototypes. GIF CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/LIAM WILLETT


He also works closely with his countersigning officer, Lynette Ong, who has supported him in many opportunities to work with people including nurses and doctors from different departments. 

Kai Siang credits her as the one who encouraged him to continue broadening his knowledge beyond the medical field and to develop his own capabilities.


Kai Siang gathers feedback for the prototypes before they go into production. GIF CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/LIAM WILLETT


What keeps the passion going for him as an innovation technologist is that he can test out the ideas that he has in mind and validate with actual users. This is something that he feels would be difficult to do in small and medium sized enterprises or multinational corporations.

“I think it’s pretty hard in those companies, where clients request a certain product to be better (but) you don’t get to see the other side of things like how it’s going to be used,” he says.

At TTSH, when an innovation does not work as intended, the team goes back to the drawing board. Kai Siang adopts the mindset that “nothing ventured (is) nothing gained”.

He believes that the innovation process will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel as long as the team perseveres.

Before the pandemic, besides working with fellow colleagues to develop innovations, the team would also conduct workshops. These workshops empower fellow innovation technologists to come up with ideas and “be more independent in driving their own innovation”.

However when COVID-19 hit, Kai Siang was tasked to work on the development of COVID-19-sensitive projects, with the main priority to reduce the transmission of the disease and alleviate the burden of COVID-19 frontline workers. As the pandemic settles, Kai Siang feels work is returning to what it was before.

He recognises that those with his engineering skill set might find daily work repetitive, with not many opportunities to work outside their comfort zone. However, his advice is to explore new things such as new technologies and new techniques and tricks that can be adopted into the current practice.

“Innovations, big or small, will continue being explored to improve the quality of care for patients and for staff efficiency.”

When asked what the polytechnic version of him would think of what he is doing now, Kai Siang thinks that “he would be quite amazed” by the different opportunities he is able to get in touch with.

“Being an innovation technologist is definitely a very good place to start and pursue these interests,” he adds.

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