Greater Healthcare Accessibility for Malaysians Pt. 2

 

Enterprise IT News recently concluded a multi-stakeholder healthcare industry roundtable on 3rd May, 2019. On that day, many things were discussed and shared.

Ministry of Health (MOH) Deputy Director of the Planning Unit, Dr. Fazilah Allaudin shared that key areas the ministry is looking at, include primary healthcare, financing reform and public-private integrations.

Hospital USM’s Dr. Ariffin Mokhtar has a sandbox and showcase that experiments with components to be put into place so that tech projects and innovations may scale out nationwide and in compliance to regulations.

TM One’s Hanis Hanisab looked beyond his industry to find solutions to funding problems so that healthcare can be accessible.

The moderator, Mohan Manthiry from InfoMed, is a passionate advocate for healthcare to be part of our national education syllabus.

Many good, well-meaning ideas were shared, but there were too many to be all listed down here. Let this article be a public record of ideas from Sancy’s Group CEO, Raj Ganesarajah.

Experience speaks

Sancy has observed that hospitals have it tougher than most, at attracting great IT talent.

Raj said, “IT organisations are a bit more appealing, so we want to bridge that gap by offering IT BPO services to the healthcare industry in this region.”

Healthcare, especially public healthcare haven’t had an easy time adopting technology as well and Raj opined that the major barrier isn’t always necessarily low access to technology, but rather low support of its use.

“Technology investments are not a one-time event,” he pointed out, adding that he thinks the industry already spends a significant amount on technology.

“But, it wasn’t optimised.”

And this phenomenon is more prevalent that many people think.

“After the technology investment, you will notice a spike in usage. Then the law of diminishing returns kicks in and the level of usage moves from 80-percent to 10-percent.

The Group CEO proposed the idea that, “Investing in technology and innovation is a continued decision you make day-to-day.”

Leveraging tech to connect demand with supply

When it comes to evaluation and procurement of technologies, Raj believed that the tech should be looked at as holistic system. “Any solution looked at has to involve hospital information systems (HIS), mobile apps, and so on… so as one cohesive solution set, instead of piecemeal components.”

But besides the potential of technology to increase productivity and efficiency of hospital operations, it can help to enhance the delivery of healthcare.

One popular term used when many different industries talk about digital transformation is Uberisation. This e-hailing mobile app was instrumental in connecting transportation owners with individuals that require transportation services.

In other words, it introduced the very powerful idea of a digital platform that connected demand with supply, When replicated to our own local healthcare industry, reasonable nursing care at home, becomes nearly feasible, because of a pool of retired nurses and care providers who could help rationalise the high cost of home nursing care.

Raj pointed out that it’s high time for this to happen, “Especially with the Director General of MOH saying they look forward to more innovation with 5G and at reasonable cost… the framework is there, the tech is there, it’s just about how to bring this to people.”

The Big Wait – No more?

“Another problem we are anxious to solve is the waiting problem. Why does someone have to go to a government hospital, queue for half a day to get their meds?” said Raj.

The idea is that with a mobile phone, an alert to replenish medicine can be sent to a patient, who then sends a message to the doctor who issues the prescription, which the pharmacy picks up and prepares to send to the patient’s home.

Raj observed that the technology is ready, and opined, “Today, we are one year away from seeing this become reality.”

Even functions like the doctor’s note-taking, can be automated. Imagine using artificial intelligence to automate the discharge summary or clinical report of a patient’s treatment at a healthcare facility.

Best practices moving forward

Despite everything that the health ministry and industry has done till now, there is recognition from all parties that more can be done.

Dr.Fazilah pointed out the dismal lack of access to healthcare in rural areas is still very much a reality of the Malaysian landscape. This lack of access arises from two perspectives: low availability of health services and prohibitive cost of health services

Raj also brought up the matter of patient funding models. “It has to be viewed as a critical issue.”

One usually turns to insurance and savings to alleviate the rising cost of healthcare. But, having to tap into one’s life savings isn’t a very sustainable method, if the treatment cost is high and duration of treatment is long-term.

Hanis Hanisab’s idea to leverage Zakat funds was received favourably by everyone in the room.

TM One’s industry expert, Hanis Hanisab mooted the idea of utilising Zakat funds to pay patient bills, but as of now only NCD sufferers may be eligible to utilise it.

Sancy’s Raj also introduced the idea of integrating insurance services into the overall national healthcare solution, so that patients can receive treatment without delay and hassle. This is also one way to increase accessibility to healthcare.

“It’s not only about our ability to provide comprehensive hospital systems, but the tight integration to public and private insurance,” Raj said.

From this point thereon, he segued to his main proposal for a National Healthcare Competency Centre.

The Malaysian Hospital Solution

“I think this centre can be the nexus that provides an national solution nationwide,” Raj said.

With rapid development and rapid deployment of merged public and private assets, he mooted the idea of a next-generation solution that is deployed as a cloud service by the National Healthcare Competency Centre.

This centre would comprise of technical innovators like Sancy, the health ministry, as well as telco companies like Telekom Malaysia, learning institutions like Hospital USM (HUSM), and the hospitals. “The only other agent I suggest to be part of this consortium, is insurance companies,” Raj said.

This centre could potentially address challenges that learning institutions have at readying doctors to provide healthcare services in an increasingly digital landscape.

“The teaching and learning (of this Malaysian solution) can happen in all our teaching institutions like HUSM, so a doctor graduates already knowing how to use the application, and being tech-savvy enough to hit the ground running,” Raj emphasised.

Conclusion

Dr. Fazilah has alluded to her next big task being the 12th Malaysia Plan. She is the secretariat for the Health Chapter and alluded to health being a constant component in every single policy to be crafted under this upcoming national plan.

A Health Advisory Council has also been formed as of March 2019, and the industry seems rejuvenated, once more.

High on the priority list is nationwide roll out of EMR (Electronic Medical Records) systems and for this year at least, the thing to look out for is what Dr. Fazilah refers to as a ‘soft law’.

We wait with bated breath at what this law will contain, and whether any of the ideas brought forward on 3rd May would be taken into consideration.

Above all, this soft law which would eventually become policy, needs to competently consolidate what the industry has been working on till now, while creating a solid foundation for the industry to continue building upon for the many years to come.