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OPINION: Technology to aid Malaysia’s healthcare sector

Grace Ho | June 6, 2012
If appropriately provided for and managed, technology should help improve patient outcomes.

While computers and networks have been used for some time in healthcare settings, they are often still tied to a specific, physical location, requiring the presence of a clinician.

Communication among healthcare workers in different areas often takes place via fixed telephones, because most hospital regulations prohibit the use of mobile phones in many areas of their facilities.

For clinical professionals such as nurses and physicians, every moment that they are tethered to a desktop computer or a fixed-wall phone is a moment they aren't spending at the bedside with their patients or on the move to their next task. Increased mobility, coupled with mobile tools that provide secured access to real time data for these professionals, means increased productivity, better and faster patient care, and ultimately enhanced patient outcomes.

Some solutions

Here are some of the healthcare solutions, which can be potentially deployed in Malaysia over the next five to 10 years, to contribute to Malaysia's growth in health tourism:

Tracking of surgical equipment using handheld computers in operating theatres, cardiology and radiology departments allows medical equipment, be it a stent, pacemaker or prosthetic to be tracked and traced during surgery, and provides for item-level billing to the patients.

Where nurses would previously manually record each item in a book, the mobile electronic system allows extensive amounts of information to be collected by scanning a barcode on the device/packaging at the time of use, and then uploading that information to a central data store, enhancing not only productivity and efficiency, but ultimately patient safety.

Kiosk-based patient automated arrival system ensures better data accuracy and a reduction in human errors in patient admissions; and also contributes to facilitating patient through-put in patient check-ins and admissions.

The system allows patients to scan a barcoded patient appointment letter they receive in the mail at a kiosk to register their arrival at the hospital. The kiosk shows them where their specific clinic's waiting room is, allowing admin and clinical staff at the hospital fewer manual processes to complete, and therefore improved quality and timeliness of service.

These examples show how providing immediate access to patient data from anywhere in a facility can significantly increase healthcare workers' productivity. This, in turn, helps improve the quality of patient care and ultimately reduces costs.

That said, regulations around patient privacy and safety can make implementing such technical solutions tricky without the help of experienced technology partners.

Deploying effective technology solutions often requires substantial investment. Technology in a healthcare setting requires more than a notebook computer on a cart. True mobility, in the form of handheld "pocket" or wearable devices using wireless communications for real-time connectivity, requires a next-generation mobile computing infrastructure.


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