Digital Healthcare Asia

This is my second year in presenting at this business meeting highlighting the work done in the digital healthcare space.

My role was to bring the audience back to the humanity of medicine. With the excitement of digitisation in healthcare we often forget that the patient doctor relationship is sacred and personal to the patient especially. Until we reach the level of sophistication in AI, humans will be at the fore front of this encounter.

Aiding this encounter is important as we push for digitisation to ensure that the doctor patient communication is unhindered by the computerisation within the consultation room. The workload and the information that a doctor needs to process has exponentially increased. This often drowns out the voice of the patient as the doctor grapples with the myriad of tasks that is now expected of him/ her.

Digital technology is here to stay and there is certainly no turning back. Understanding its potential and executing it perfectly to highlight its strengths is the key message. From connectedness by remote monitoring to targeted patient education, the power of the current digital world is undeniable.

I will be presenting on this topic again at the upcoming Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia conference this end of July. Facebook link to the conference

How precious are your ideas?

There’s a famous saying that “Ideas are cheap, execution is everything”.

Having lived through some moments where my ideas were instantly ‘adopted’ elsewhere, rapidly proliferating, while I was still dragging my feet around it, living in a cocoon of grandiosity. It was clear that while I was thinking about those ideas, perhaps thousands, if not millions of people were having the very same idea. Unfortunately what matters is how those ideas are translated into reality.

The culture of sharing ideas must be cultivated. Breaking down barriers to communications between different specialties and industries will be important if we are to make significant advances in technology. The unfounded fear that your ideas might be hijacked will only hamper its execution.

Although the intellectual property (IP) rights must be respected, early ideas are likely not unique to that individual. Once the ideas become a tangible project, talking about IP rights become more apt.

In Healthcare, the communication between healthcare and technology professionals must be as seamless as possible. Developing digital solutions for healthcare requires a clear understanding of the processes and its complexities. This aids in developing meaningful and impactful solutions for healthcare.

The next time you have an idea, develop it by sharing with a clear plan of bringing it into reality.

How to best utilise tech in medicine?

Technology can be expensive in healthcare. Developing a custom solution can cost one thousands to millions of ringgit to create. Even then, the solutions are usually fraught with bugs and inabilities to integrate with other existing softwares. The market is so fragmented that solutions are usually purchased separately resulting in the use of different solutions at the same hospital or place of practice.

Thus the use of technology in healthcare can be disruptive in every sense of the word. Although we cannot escape the digitisation of healthcare and the many benefits that it brings, we cannot deny that, perhaps, it is still not quite ready for prime time medicine. The use of big data analytics and how we interpret the information, following which we present that in useful manner to the patients in order to bring benefits, is still science fiction on most occasions. It adds noise and sometimes confusion to the art of medicine. The art of looking at the patient, asking the right questions, watching the non-verbal cues and at the same time exude empathy, will soon be a lost art as digitisation aims to rob both doctors and patients of the chance to “intimately” know each other.

Most EMRs in the market is packed with features. It almost parallels a airplane cockpit control panels. There are lots of devices that gives out a lot of information. The key is to focus on the right things at the right time and to interpret the information in a coherent manner, especially during critical times. Training in EMRs is often not robust and regular enough for healthcare personnel. There is literally no checking mechanism to ensure that the system is utilised appropriately and that staff will be trained regularly to ensure quality of data being entered. It is assumed that this should be second nature to healthcare staff, when clearly it is not. Most EMRs require substanstial learning and practice to be fully proficient.

In my opinion, the best systems are ones that uses tech which is familiar to all. Large multinational tech giants have done some of the work for us in terms of gaining familiarity, be it Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Dropbox, Evernote and the list goes on and on. Perhaps using some of these platforms to launch a healthcare solution will be best in order to minimise re-learning and to ensure that the systems continue to be developed and improved on. Perhaps custom made EMRs are going to be the thing of the past as many of them are not easily upgradable and spending on server space and security can be a very costly affair.

Indeed, the technology that we need is already there for us to use, maybe in an innovative way. A way that it was perhaps not intended to do when it was first developed. This is also way cheaper. Tech does not have to be expensive. It just takes some creativity and bravery to think of ways to use existing tech solutions in unconventional ways.

Public-private co-operation needed in healthcare

Agree that there is a huge discrepancy in the services between private and public healthcare. Although the dear Minister insists that the population should utilise public healthcare services, the deficiencies and weaknesses of the system is often not addressed.

There is a greater need for public-private healthcare co-operation. This can help the public services cope with the overcrowding at their clinics and hospitals.

Private hospitals and doctors must also ensure that there is added value in paid healthcare services. There must be a distinction in private healthcare, focusing on patient experience and satisfaction. Outcome based fee may also be a solution to ensure added value for private healthcare.

Universal insurance coverage should be the aim of the Malaysian government. This would also ensure that newer more effective but expensive medications are still available to the poor. We have witnessed the inability of the Government to cope with financial assistance when it comes to more expensive therapies. Subsidies are sometimes limited to a very basic care.

The Minister must take the lead in this. Otherwise it will also be a catastrophe for the public healthcare services as well when it can no longer cope with the ever escalating cost of healthcare.