Malaysia’s response effort to the pandemic with Digital Health
In light of the ongoing battle with COVID-19, Malaysia is doing an exemplary job to combat the virus despite an ongoing political fracas. Malaysia has somehow managed to keep its eye on the ball.
During a HIMSS webinar on digital health, Dr. Fazilah Shaik Allaudin, Senior Deputy Director, Medical Development Division at the Ministry of Health (at that time), and Professor Tunku Kamarul Zaman Tunku Zainol Abidin, Director, University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) shared their perspectives on Malaysia’s response efforts towards the pandemic.
Preparation and Readiness to combat the virus
Professor Tunku Kamarul Zaman shared that, with the use of digital healthcare analytics UMMC was able to do trend predictions and forecast the challenges faced in terms of resources management.
“I’m happy to say that, we never faced shortage of PPE or experience unwanted exposure due to the lack of PPE because we (were able to predict from trends) and everything was dealt in advance.”
Being the second largest hospital in the country, with over 6000 headcount, they were able to maintain surveillance within the premises to curtail risk. They did this by ensuring patient care is optimised in order to prevent the disease from spreading.
As a result, he was thrilled to share that UMMC’s has discharged its last active case and there aren’t any in-patients now.
As for the Ministry of Health (MOH), apart from the daily press briefings on the latest updates and information on COVID-19, MOH wants to contain the virus whilst educating the public on what they can do.
Dr. Fazilah shared one of the efforts done by MOH was the introduction of MySejahtera App, a contact tracing app developed by the government and a strategic co-operation of multiple agencies to assist in monitoring the outbreak.
“The app has a built-in algorithm that allows one to perform health self-assessments. It is able to identity hot spot areas as well. Recently, we have added more features as well,” she said.
Dr. Fazilah shared that MoH started the early containment phase the moment they received an alert from World Health Organization (WHO). Their responses included an immediate activation of the Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC), active contact tracing, targeted approach testing, cleaning and disinfection, home surveillance and mandatory quarantining.
In addition, MOH has also drastically enhanced their lab capacity from six laboratories, to now 43 laboratories running almost 30 thousand tests per day.
Digital communication and the new norm
Professor Kamarul said that his organisation and MOH have efficiently collaborated and communicated closely via digital communications and this has resulted in a coordinated working relationship between them, all thanks to video conferencing tools.
Thanks to digital connectivity and existing collaborations, Malaysia got a heads up from their collaborators in Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China concerning the psychological impact of COVID-19 on healthcare workers.
“This has helped us understand what to expect psychologically for our staffs and gave us ample of time to prepare and react accordingly,” he ended.
Dr. Fazilah on the other hand, shared that various info channels and mass media also was used for strategic and risk communication. This includes the use of infographics on social media, during press conferences and in press statements, to inform and educate the public and even healthcare professionals with accurate information regarding the outbreak. Press briefings were held daily by the Director General of Health to inform on the latest updates.
“We even have a dedicated WhatsApp group where different specialty and categories within the private hospitals and university hospitals are on it to discuss on-going matters. Communication is way faster using WhatsApp without the need to physically meet,” she added.
As we slowly transition into the new norm, we will see a decrease in number of patients making trips to the hospitals. Telehealth and telemedicine will be a big thing. Some existing regulations may need to be reviewed.
Medical professionals are exploring new ideas on how to make telemedicine more effective with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) platforms and bots to manage, schedule and operate patients’ information in a systematic and effective manner.
In essence, Dr. Fazilah and Professor Kamarul believe that Malaysia can flatten the curve if we continue to strengthen our preparedness and response capacity, as well as enhance our health capabilities and digital readiness.
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