3 reasons why digital transformation is key to the future sustainability of medical care
Malaysia’s two-tier healthcare system has been largely successful in balancing universal access to medical care, provided by public healthcare institutions, alongside more personalised medical services, provided by private healthcare organisations.1 But rising medical costs and surging levels of healthcare demand have raised questions about its future sustainability.
According to a recent 2021 survey2, Malaysia came out as a top leader when it comes to adopting digital healthcare services, with Malaysians believing they will be more reliant on technology in the future to improve their personal health and wellbeing. 72% find health-related information available from smartphone health apps useful, 81% said technology has already improved their access to health services and 60% believe it digital healthcare has improved the affordability of healthcare services.
Making healthcare sustainable through digital transformation
To ensure resilience of the healthcare system, the Economic Planning Unit of Malaysia released a blueprint reforming the Malaysian Healthcare System in line with the 12th Malaysian Plan (2021-2025). Studies will be conducted to strengthen the healthcare sector landscape which includes public healthcare sector transformation, private healthcare sector regulatory reform, sustainable health financing and leveraging on technology to digitise healthcare services and innovation.
Boosting healthcare productivity through digital technology and automation
The adoption of digital technologies can help healthcare providers better manage rising medical costs by enhancing labour productivity. For example, RFID tagging of various medical equipment – such as defibrillators, patient monitors, stretchers – can help make their logistical management simpler and faster.13 Medical software can also help automate tedious operational tasks, such as medical transcription and data entry, which are prone to human errors.14 All these digital tools help healthcare professionals focus on caring for an increasing number of patients more effectively.
Improving the quality of medical care through data analytics and interoperability
Digitalisation can also support the delivery of better healthcare. For example, the creation of a centralised database of comprehensive patient records that isMyHDW allows both public and private sector physicians to reference a common, trusted source of truth as well as leverage medical data analytics to better
evaluate their patients’ conditions and formulate more informed diagnoses.15 Additionally, the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), has also enabled a shift from largely clinician-centric to more patientcentred healthcare. Doctors can now rope in their patients to take greater charge in monitoring their own medical conditions – from heart rate measurements, blood glucose readings to eye refraction testing – through the use of medical diagnostics applications installed on their personal digital devices and wearables.
Expanding the reach of healthcare services through virtual connectivity
The introduction of telemedicine and other virtual health applications also help expands medical coverage to less connected geographical regions, such as isolated kampongs across rural Malaysia.16 As broadband infrastructure and internet penetration continues to stretch beyond 70% of all households in Malaysia,13 an increasing number of patients living in remote areas will soon be able to receive medical help digitally, when travelling to distant medical facilities is not feasible.
Challenges to digitally transforming healthcare
Concerns about data privacy and security of confidential patient data are a leading challenge to the adoption of digital technologies in medical settings.17 But healthcare providers can overcome this challenge by ensuring dedicated organisational policies and staff protocols for handling patient data are developed and enforced, as well as choosing digital tools and computing equipment that are equipped with robust security features, such as data encryption and real-time malware threat protection.
Additionally, digital tools that are introduced into healthcare workflows must also be suited for use in clinical environments. User authentication features on various devices must balance security with speed, to allow for quick access to important data or procedures in medical emergencies. More practically, electronic devices introduced into healthcare environments should be able to withstand thorough sanitisation procedures without damage – as electronic devices are known to be common areas for pathogenic bacteria contamination18-21 – so as to ensure they do not become vectors of undetected transmission in sterile environments.
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Medical and computing devices optimised for healthcare workflows
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