compliance-rule-law

The unifying thread for a thriving OHS ecosystem

I was recently tagged on Linkedin to The Edge article here, which detailed the very expansive hopes and efforts of regulating the local online healthcare service (OHS) ecosystem.

EITN has been following developments of OHS and began writing about it in 2017, thanks to the vocal efforts of the Ministry of Health’s (MOH’s) Dr. Fazilah Allaudin Shaikh

The Edge article is a valiant effort, which to me, encompassed areas that regulators and industry together have to fully immerse in to translate initiatives into terms that can be quantified.

Quantifying it is so important so we can recognise wins no matter how small they may seem.

Based on this article, and my own conversations with healthcare regulators, these broad regulatory  (and a few non-regulatory) areas are:

  1. Identity – patients and doctors have to authenticate that they are who they say they are. This is to ensure that diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up are as accurate as can be. This can potentially lead to optimal patient outcomes, desired and better quality of life.
  • E-prescriptions – it is important to prevent misuse of e-prescriptions by requiring them to be digitally signed as outlined by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency
  • Consultation and diagnosis – when proximity is a challenge, how can we use technologies at our fingertips to accurately consult and diagnose, and do so in a timely manner? Can a patient use virtual consultation with a doctor they have not met physically, be reliably diagnosed, and be advised of the next steps to take?
  • Continuity of care – care should continue despite the patient having stepped out of the healthcare premises. What are the convenient, helpful, and non-intrusive ways that two-way communication can still continue? How can technology promote better adherence to medication taking so there is better patient outcome?
  • Accessibility and availability of healthcare services in rural areas – How does one address the lack of awareness about available healthcare services? Where can one (especially in rural and/or aging communities)  go to find out how to use tech-based health services?
  • Lifetime health records – if implemented well on nation-scale, might it make #3 possible?

Now, I mentioned before this that these areas (and other initiatives not listed here) need to be quantifiable in order for industry, regulators, and basically the whole ecosystem to recognise the wins and be heartened to keep striving forward.

One area that especially needs this ‘win’ is lifetime health records (LHR), which as far as I know is Dr. Fazilah’s lifelong dream to have deployed.

And current developments seem to point to it finally possibly happening.

First Ambulance Service (FAS)

Last April, telco provider YTL together with an ambulance service provider (FAS) announced a strategic collaboration to enable faster and data-informed healthcare services.

As the patient is being transported to a hospital, real-time streaming of ultrasound and electrocardiogram (EKG) telemetry can also be sent to the hospital. This allows responsive and more timely care of patients.

Currently, the case is that healthcare institutions, hospitals, clinics would hold the data of their patients. For cybersecurity reasons and/ or due to a lack of tried and tested, efficient, streamlined workflow processes, transfer/sharing of this data to other healthcare institutions that their patients go to, is unheard of.

Muhundan Kamarapullai, MRANTI’s CIO, explained during a separate interview, “The emergency responders can also interact with the ambulance paramedics and look at simple diagnostics to advise urgent next steps. This is something not possible before.”

Lifetime health records (LHR)

Another interesting development is what data management company, Data8 Sdn Bhd enables using blockchain technology. On their FAQ page, the company highlights how their platform, aptly called Cheart (or ‘Sihat’ the Malay word for healthy) lets individuals store and manage their own health data.

Currently, the case is that healthcare institutions, hospitals, clinics would hold the data of their patients. For cybersecurity reasons and/ or due to a lack of tried and tested, efficient, streamlined workflow processes, transfer/sharing of this data to other healthcare institutions that their patients go to, is unheard of.

Deploying LHR in Malaysia is a rocky journey.

Continuity of care at another hospital or clinic that the patient goes to, is fraught with friction. There have been LHR initiatives over the years that try to create a platform for patient data-sharing to become more seamless, but it is a rocky journey.

Owning and managing your own healthcare records

On their website, Data8 stated, “We wish for everyone to be able to easily retrieve your own data and be able to have access to your loved one’s records, which can literally be a matter of life and death.”

In an emergency context, this patient data would be immensely helpful to the ambulance paramedic or the doctor who is guiding them via live stream as the patient is en route to the hospital.

With the Cheart platform, individuals can store and retrieve their data, as well as manage who else can access their healthcare records.

With beneficial solutions like what FAS and Data8 (Cheart) offers, local healthcare can surely take heart that their efforts to offer seamless, convenient, accessible services are paying off.

It’s still a journey towards LHR and what it can be for the local healthcare system in Malaysia. But, Cheart is a good initial step towards it.