Practical applications for digital technology in the improvement of patient access to healthcare were the focus of this year’s Malaysian Innovative Healthcare Symposium (MIHS 2018) held recently in Selangor.

Organized by the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society’s Young Pharmacists’ Chapter (MPS-YPC), the third iteration of the one-day symposium drew over 200 young graduates and professionals in the healthcare sector to the grounds of Monash University to hear insights from a range of experts and thought leaders in the fields of IT and healthcare.

“As patients assume greater responsibility of their health, the focus of healthcare is starting to shift from managing illness to improving health and increasing participation in medical decision-making,” said event representatives. “The theme of the MIHS 2018, 'Healthcare 4.0: Closing the Gap between Patients and Technology’, underscores the criticality of cultivating consumer-centric healthcare innovation.”

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director-General of Health in the Ministry of Health (MOH), commented on developments in the healthcare sector since 1997, when the MOH began looking into information technology and total hospital systems.

“As we evolved, we learned from our experiences and mistakes; the most important we found was the need for integration of data between primary care with hospitals,” said Noor Hisham.

He added that the MOH has been working with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to examine acts and regulations which may be impeding innovation. In addition, he expressed hopes for the assistance of digital technology in bringing more outpatient procedures out of overcrowded hospitals and back into the community.

Among the technologies shared include an integrated hospital-to-home collaborative care ecosystem to support home care for geriatric patients, as shared by Ng Li Lian, co-founder and director of Tetsuyu Home Care Pte Ltd, Singapore; as well as an applied virtual reality simulation to make vaccination less intimidating for children, as shared by Goh Man Fye, senior assistant director in the Penang State Health Department’s Pharmaceutical Services Division.

At a discussion forum during the symposium, the question of how healthcare could better support independent living for an increasingly aging society was at the forefront. Dr Lee Fatt Soon, vice president of the Malaysian Society of Geriatric Medicine, highlighted the importance of directly assessing the different needs of different sub-populations even among the elderly.

“As the aging society consists of different populations—both healthy and ill—products should be designed considering on the user’s medical condition and the expectations and beliefs towards the item,” said Dr Lee Fatt Soon. “For example—I am diabetic, and I just had a laser treatment on my eye and my fingers are numb. A gadget with a small screen and touch screen features are not suitable in this scenario.”

Adding to this, Associate Professor Dr Teh Pei Lee, lead researcher at Monash University’s Gerontechnology Laboratory, shared further details of ongoing projects including soft robotics and home automation which incorporated expertise from different disciplines.

“The domains we focus on are health and self-esteem, physical and emotional support, housing and daily living design for safety and independence,” said Teh. “This includes communication and garment [items] such as phones… technology should involve social participation in term of health, comfort and safety and cover the scope of independent living, which is needed by the seniors. We need to look at sustainability as well, to change the mindset that aging is a disease.”

Further information on future MPS-YPC events can be obtained from the organization’s new website at mpsypc.com.my.