Exclusive: Malaysia’s plan to overhaul healthcare

By Medha Basu

New health records and remote monitoring to be launched.

Malaysia has a new plan for healthcare that will give citizens access to their health data online and share vital statistics from wearable devices with their doctors.

It is part of a vision to have shared health records for each citizen, giving them uniform quality of care across government and private facilities in the country, Dr Fazilah Shaik Allaudin, Deputy Director of Telehealth, Ministry of Health, told GovInsider.

“We want to have lifetime health records for continuity of care and sharing information. Malaysia has large public and private sectors in healthcare. With this, patients will have a choice to move from one to another,” she said.

Shared patient data

Hospitals will continue to maintain their own records, but the “lifetime health records” will pull together the “most important and relevant parts” from each hospital, she said.

The current system is fragmented and hospitals will have to start exchanging more information, Dr Allaudin said. The Ministry of Health is testing a system to share data across hospitals and clinics.

“The pilot will exchange clinical information, discharge summaries and referrals between primary care and hospitals, and also relevant lab and radiology results,” she said. It will go live near the end of this year in five hospitals and 1 primary care clinic.

This will become a nationwide practice in 5 to 10 years, she believes. “That is our final aim: to have public and private sector integration. We have started with the Ministry of Health and eventually we can see it become more national with private sector hospitals getting involved.”

It will also bring in health facilities run by other ministries, such as the Ministry of Education’s university hospitals and Ministry of Defence’s military hospitals.

Access to health records

With better integration, the Ministry will introduce new services for citizens to access their health records, and add their own information. “The next step is a patient portal with appointments and e-referrals. They can view parts of their records and also enter information,” she said. This could be launched in two years’ time.

Patients will also be able to enter information on their own so that doctors can monitor them remotely. “We are testing out home monitoring for chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension,” she said. 20 clinics will pilot this new service in October this year, from where the project will be rolled out across the country over the next five years.

Wearables in the future

The remote monitoring is the first step towards an ambitious plan to send information from patients’ wearables to their doctors. Currently, this is mostly being driven by Internet of Things (IoT) companies, but the government will look to play a bigger role in it.

Malaysia has launched a national IoT plan, and one of the first government pilots will be in healthcare. The government wants to use wearables to measure vital data like heartbeat, amount of exercise and number of calories.

“We are letting the private sector play a big role now, but that [wearables] information will have to come in soon,” she said.