Human brains have a major malfunction. We suffer from ‘bounded rationality,’ which means that we can only hold a finite amount of information in our heads.

Our heads have a storage limit, and this creates problems when tackling seemingly unlimited problems like a global pandemic or climate change, where everything is affected.

We are programmed to jam up when fed too much data, but some government officials must create structures to push past this and consider beyond the immediate effects of Covid-19. One such official is Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director General of Health in Malaysia’s Ministry of Health. He shared three trends that will shape the future of Malaysian healthcare.

1. Virtual health

Malaysia’s healthcare is at a critical junction. With an ageing population expected to jump by 40% in the next 30 years, growing demand for treatment is putting increasing pressure on the system.

Hospitals are turning to tech to augment their services. “COVID-19 has altered attitudes and accelerated adoption of policies that enable the business of work”, he says. “This crisis offered a unique opportunity to accelerate digital transformation”.

In February this year, the MoH partnered with DoctorOnCall, a medical video consultation start-up to create a customised virtual health consultancy platform that would address public concerns about Covid-19, a “first-of-its-kind solution initiated by a government in the region”.

2. Patient records

The Ministry also plans for “Lifetime Health Record for individuals”, he reveals creating an e-health initiative to provide a “one record, one person, accessibility to data and patient engagement”.

Interoperability is crucial to achieve this, he adds. While there is no announced timeframe, the Malaysia Health Information Exchange, a patient record interoperability platform launched in 2009 as a precursor for public-private integration in health, remains a “significant digital health initiative” the MoH is “actively pursuing” to shape the future of Malaysia’s health system.

But making a health system interoperable, especially on a national level, is not always a smooth journey. “Many health sectors across the globe have embarked on interoperability with many challenges” Datuk Abdullah says.

For him, success lies in involvement from both the public and private sectors. In the USA, a pioneer in healthcare operability, one issue has been a disconnect between government and industry. “Federal reporting and administrative requirements” were cited earlier this year as a roadblock to operators in implementing efficient electronic exchange.

“An interoperability layer is crucial”, confirms Datuk Abdullah, “(but only) with agreed standards and policies”.

3. New partnerships

New partnerships are vital. “4IR with telecommunication advances, and the dawn of 5G technology, are presenting multiple strategies and challenges ahead”, says Datuk Adbullah. To plan for this connected future, the Ministry is reviewing and developing regulatory strategies and policies.

For Malaysia and its Ministry of Health, these “collaborative partnerships” and “public-private integration” are key components to the country, he notes.

“Sharing of medical information is important to ensure continuity of care, improved outcomes and population health”, says Datuk Abdullah.

Connectivity is more than just electronic information. It is the network of relationships that help build, not just data, but also expertise for the future.

Healthcare officials don’t need to carry their burden alone. Through new tech, tools, and partnerships, they can beat their bounded rationality and create a world of infinite possibilities.

This is an edited interview conducted by Hospital Management Asia. Register for their Virtual Summit in December.

Image from Facebook.