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Healthcare in the Age of Disruption

The Medico-Legal Society of Malaysia (MLSM) and the Medico-Legal Society of Singapore (MLSS) recently organised the virtual version of their annual event which both societies view as an important part of their annual agenda. Titled “Disruption: The New Norm”, the two-hour virtual conference featured speakers from the medical, government, as well as legal sectors.

Raja, Darryl & Loh’s Raja Eileen Soraya talked about legal challenges in disruptive medicine while Edmund Kronenburg from Braddell Brothers LLP, looked at the topic of  disruption during the resolution process of medico-legal disputes.

One Dr. Anantham Devanand from the Singapore General Hospital even delved into the ethical dichotomy of innovative treatment and research.

It was a two-hour session about hurdles and challenges, but when it comes to what these challenges are, and the impact they have on the overall healthcare system, none knows this more than the Ministry of Health.

During the webinar session, Dr. Fazilah Shaik Allaudin, Senior Deputy Director, Ministry of Health spoke about healthcare in the age of disruption. (Click this link to watch the 2-hour webinar in its entirety).

Malaysia with a population of 32 million will soon become an ageing society as 6.9-percent of the population is above 65. Digital disruption will eventually have an impact on the nation.

In her brief, Dr. Fazilah shared that in 2018, the government had laid out a plan for six focus areas for the future of our healthcare. These 6 areas are:

  • Quality & Safety of care
  • Illness to Wellness
  • Healthcare back to community family & Individuals
  • Inclusive Innovation
  • Collaborative partnership
  • Public & Private integration

Game Changer for Tomorrow 

In line with one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ensuring everyone can access essential quality health without facing financial hardship (leaving no one behind), broadband connectivity is an important enabler for equity and social justice. To achieve this SDG, emerging technologies like  social media, IoT, big data, cloud mobile devices, and AI, are being explored.

“We are also moving into a nationwide EMR (electronic medical records) project, to have electronic health records for our population – and various digital health projects, clinical trials and a 5G testbed are ongoing right now as well,” added Dr. Fazilah

While the implementation of digital health has been happening in many countries, we look at the challenges and where does digital health stand today in Malaysia?

“We still have multiple silos, fragmented systems and lack of timely data for decision making. Not only that, most of the hospitals and clinics are still (using) manual (processes),” said Dr. Fazilah

Regulations that were created years ago are roadblocks currently, and need to be addressed to ensure new technologies are aligned with it.

Touching on COVID-19, Dr. Fazilah shared that while we saw a massive digital response amid the pandemic, there is a current concern we will fall into  post-pandemic complacency. Whilst everyone was on the fast track to getting the job done during the outbreak, will this urgency soon go back to the pre-pandemic era? she asked.

Dr. Fazilah indicated that work is in progress in the country with regards to areas like white papers being written to clinical trials and validation for emerging technologies. Emerging technologies however, come with legal, ethical, and safety challenges which include:

  1. New service models Now, there is delivery though digital platform, how do we address the issues in platform governance and accountability. How do we approach healthcare provider’s indemnity and Digital ID,  to ensure the doctors and patients who are online, are who they say they are?
  2. Emerging Technologies – 3D printing and genomics face issues of  clinical validity & social inequality; how do we ensure technology does not differentiate the rich from the poor, the urban from the rural. There is also question of whether robots will replace surgeons and nurses in the future.
  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) – there are ongoing issues with  convergence of IoT & AI in healthcare services – will there be an algorithm bias? How can we conduct clinical validation for medical decision-making?
  4. Mobile Devices – this involves patients’ rights and access to full data. Policies on bring your own devices(BYOD) amongst medical practitioner. There are valid cybersecurity & privacy concerns
  5. Cloudbased services/ Social Media- Issues on data sovereignty, residency and data hosting. The discussion on patients on social media. Issues on private cloud vs public cloud.

Role of Government in Digital Health and Innovation

The government plays a big role in digital health and innovation in terms of leadership, policy regulation & legislation, with areas of consideration being foresight policies, balancing innovations & safety, and social protection.

With that being said, the government can create conducive ecosystems and collaborative platforms to ensure public-private partnership foster digital health in Malaysia

And of course,the government has a role in funding the incentives for innovators from segments like Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and startup companies.

Dr. Fazilah concluded that despite the fact the healthcare industry faces a wide range of challenges, ultimately the future of care will move towards being predictive, preventive and personalised with technology, without compromising the 3A’s of healthcare (availability, accessibility, and affordability).