KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 – The National Heart Institute (IJN) has embarked on an increased push for health care digitalisation, with several digitisation initiatives in the works.
This includes the implementation of an Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system, according to IJN chief executive officer Dr Aizai Azan Abdul Rahim at a virtual forum held on May 30 on “Digital Health: How Tech Can Help Patients”, jointly organised by IJN and health-tech social enterprise, CaringUp Malaysia.
“This is part of our efforts at a ‘total information system’ transformation, which basically entails utilising digital health solutions wherever possible to ease our processes as well as help our patients better manage their own health,” he said, adding that the centre’s digitalisation efforts will also support the government’s long-term goal of entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
IJN’s EMR system is slated to be launched in the third quarter of 2022.
During the forum, Dr Azhari Yakub, IJN senior consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, shared his perspective on the current challenges faced by the medical sector, particularly on the issue of medication non-adherence.
Medication non-adherence, which refers to when a patient is not following their prescribed treatment plan, is seen as a serious global issue.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost half of patients with chronic diseases do not take their medications or treatments as prescribed, a figure that is estimated to be higher among those in developing countries.
Dr Azhari said that for patients with multiple health conditions in particular, complying with treatment plans was paramount to keeping their illnesses in check.
“A 2021 study found that some 50 to 60 per cent of patients with chronic illnesses had unused medication at home, with the leading cause being that they had not been taking their medicine as prescribed.”
Aside from patient well-being, medication non-adherence also has broader impacts on the environment and economy, maintained Dr Suhaini Kadiman, IJN’s director of Clinical Research.
Unused medications that were found among household garbage, or that end up polluting the environment, is a serious issue.
“Unused medication is also a financial wastage for public health expenditure. This is why IJN is keen on looking for solutions that will benefit the Malaysian healthcare sector as a whole, as well as improve the well-being of Malaysians with chronic illnesses,” he said.
One way IJN is doing this is through a new collaboration with CaringUp Malaysia to introduce a new mobile app called CareAide.
CareAide is the first of its kind compliance platform in Asia to help improve medication non-adherence.
As medication adherence involves behavioural change to address intentional and unintentional non-adherence, CareAide has been created with a feature to address such issues by allowing intervention by family members.
Based on research conducted, CaringUp found that families play an important role in a patient’s care.
The platform also uses a mix of features designed to help patients comply with their prescribed treatment, including personalised calendar alerts, easy information sharing with caregivers and doctors, as well as scheduling functions.
On top of that, CareAide uses gamification and rewards for caregivers and family members to drive a positive change in their life.
“In the United States, patients who previously only had a 30 to 40 per cent of adherence to medication reached 80 per cent through the ease of managing their treatment plans with the help of apps,” said Pervaiz Gul, CaringUp group chief executive officer.
“We believe that we can similarly improve patient outcomes here in Malaysia, with added localisation features that are better suited to the local culture and norms.”
“When it comes to the health care industry, we want to empower people and organisations to address the challenges they face by harnessing the power of technology,” said Azizah Ali, Microsoft Malaysia’s chief marketing and operations officer, who was also on the panel of the forum.
“This initiative by IJN and CaringUp reflects exactly that — by using data and artificial intelligence, this innovation will help reimagine the future of medication adherence among patients in Malaysia and beyond.”
CaringUp takes a system-wide approach towards solving the complexities of compliance in patients with chronic health conditions.
This collaboration empowers IJN’s patients and their families to improve their quality of life by collaboratively regaining control of their health. In turn, IJN creates a care-loop with these patients to lower health care costs and ultimately deliver superior health outcomes
“Our experts will examine what the barriers to medication adherence are, and we hope to share these findings with our fellow health care professionals to benefit Malaysia’s health sector as a whole,” said Dr Aizai Azan.
“Our goal is to develop personalised solutions that will help patients, as well as their family members and carers, to stick to their treatment.”
According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s Internet Users Survey 2020, 11.3 per cent of Malaysians were non-internet users. Among these, over 51 per cent were aged 60 and above.
“These are precisely the people we need to be aware of and cater to,” said Dr Aizai Azan. “While more people have become used to using technology due to the pandemic, there are still those who are unable to fully participate in this technological age.
“By studying how we can address these issues, we can better include such groups in this new health care revolution.”
He added that all data gathered and stored by the app will strictly comply with data privacy laws and ethics.