The outbreak of COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for many countries when it comes to the importance of technology in healthcare. The pandemic has starkly revealed the fragility of health systems worldwide and the vital role that technology can play in bolstering these systems. Hospitals have been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, and health workers have been stretched to the limit.
Yet, even before the pandemic arrived, health systems were burdened by the growing challenge of noncommunicable diseases (NCD). According to the World Health Organisation, NCDs are responsible for 41 million deaths each year, and the burden is expected to rise to 52 million by 2030.
The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, as hospitals worldwide have been overwhelmed with patients suffering from COVID-19. What is needed is a paradigm shift in the way we think about health care in Malaysia.
We need to move away from a model focused on treatment and towards one focused on prevention. We need to make healthcare more accessible, effective and sustainable. Resilience must be built into our health systems so that they can withstand future shocks – only then will we be able to meet the challenge of NCDs – both now and in the years to come.
Science, data, and technology can be used to identify and detect diseases earlier, intervene proactively, and better understand patients’ progression to help people sustain their health and well-being and free up resources for critical cases requiring curative care with cutting-edge treatment protocols. It is essential to use technology across the continuum of care, from disease prevention and screening to diagnosis and treatment to post-treatment surveillance.
5G: One Ring to Bind Them All
5G is a critical enabler in the healthcare industry going into the future. It can power up future medical technologies to solve healthcare challenges in the country.
As of May 31, the 5G network rollout in Malaysia has covered 62.1% of populated areas, utilising 5,058 5G sites. The country is making progress towards its year-end goal of reaching 80% 5G network coverage in populated areas.
The 5G network coverage expansion plan is set to resolve connectivity issues to enable healthcare access by rural communities, indigenous and disadvantaged populations.
There's no doubt that healthcare is one of the most rapidly evolving industries. New technologies powered by 5G are being developed and adopted at an incredible rate, and it can be hard to keep up with the latest trends. However, understanding the latest healthcare trends is essential for patients and providers.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
In healthcare, AI models can help to reveal important nuances in data that might not be apparent using traditional analytics approaches. For example, AI models can account for nonlinear interaction effects among thousands of variables, such as medical coding terminology systems that categorise conditions, procedures and medications.
By taking into account these complexities, AI can help to improve decision-making in healthcare and lead to better patient outcomes. Additionally, AI can help to automate repetitive tasks in healthcare, such as data entry and the extraction of medical records. This can free up time for healthcare professionals to focus on more important tasks, such as patient care.
Healthcare organisations seeking to embrace AI must first focus on their data.
While AI has the potential to revolutionise healthcare, the vast majority of AI initiatives are focused on data engineering, governance and structure. This is because a successful AI implementation requires large amounts of high-quality data. In order to ensure that their data is up to the task, healthcare organisations must put in place the necessary infrastructure and processes. Only then can they begin to take advantage of the power of AI.
By thinking about data first, healthcare organisations can set themselves up for success as they seek to embrace this transformative technology.
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
IoMT is a growing network of devices and software that can collect, share, and analyse health data. From fitness trackers to smart watches, there are now a variety of IoMT devices available to consumers.
The global spend on IoMT is forecast to grow to US$260.75 Billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 19.8. The market growth is driven by an increasing focus on active patient engagement and patient-centric care, growth of high-speed network technologies for IoT connectivity, and the surging need to adopt cost-control measures in the healthcare sector.
With the help of IoMT, patients can be actively involved in their care by tracking their health parameters and sharing them with their care providers. This helps to improve communication between patients and providers, leading to better outcomes.
Additionally, using IoMT devices can help reduce costs by reducing the need for manual tasks and providing real-time data that can be used to make decisions about patient care.
This medical branch offers a number of advantages over traditional in-person healthcare, including increased access, convenience, and affordability. Telemedicine can be used for a variety of purposes, including consultation, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care after a patient has been discharged from the hospital. This flexibility makes it an ideal solution for patients who live in rural areas or who have difficulty travelling to see a healthcare provider.
Providers are able to monitor the patient's recovery and identify any potential problems early. With the recent pandemic and increased demand from patients on virtual visits instead of face-to-face contact with their physicians (or other specialists), it’s not surprising that 84% of practitioners have tried implementing online healthcare services at least once; 54% plan to continue offering them after the pandemic.
Big Data & Analytics
Big Data is having a big impact on the healthcare industry. The vast amount of data generated by electronic health records, medical devices, and clinical research is providing insights leading to better patient care and more effective treatments. Analytics is helping to make sense of all this data, and the results are being used to improve patient outcomes, lower costs, and increase efficiency.
Types of analytics include clinical, financial and operational. Big Data can be used to track and predict disease outbreaks, identify at-risk populations, and develop targeted prevention strategies. It can also be used to assess the effectiveness of treatments, identify potential efficacy problems early on, and tailor therapies to individual patients.
In addition, Big Data can help us to understand better the social and economic factors that impact health. Ultimately, the goal is to use data to empower patients, providers, and policy-makers to make informed decisions that will improve our nation’s health.
The global Big Data in healthcare market size was valued at US$32.9 billion last year and is expected to touch a staggering US$105.73 billion by 2030, increasing at a CAGR of 13.85% from 2022 to 2030.
Immersive technologies today play a big part in training medical students to help patients overcome pain and anxiety. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are being used to create realistic simulations of surgical procedures, allowing trainees to get a feel for the operating theatre before they step foot in one for real.
These technologies are also being used to provide distraction therapy for patients undergoing painful or anxiety-inducing treatment, such as chemotherapy. By immersing them in a calming virtual environment, VR can help patients to forget about their surroundings and focus on something more positive. As immersive technologies continue to develop, their impact on healthcare will likely only grow.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Malaysia successfully operates on a two-tier healthcare system, composed of public and private sectors. The public sector is run by the government and provides free or low-cost care to Malaysian citizens, while the private sector comprises for-profit hospitals and clinics that are available to everyone but typically provide higher-quality care than the public sector.
In recent years, Malaysia has become a popular destination for medical tourism due to its well-established private healthcare facilities, experienced doctors, and well-trained medical staff.
Recent research shows that Malaysia’s healthcare sector is expected to grow to RM127 billion (US$30 billion) by 2027, with further potential in manufacturing medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and clinical research.
However, despite this potential, the Malaysian MedTech ecosystem is somewhat lacklustre due to the lack of a "business ecosystem" that supports innovation.
We need to create an environment conducive to innovation, where new ideas can flourish and be commercialised. This will require investment in research and development, as well as in talent development. Malaysia also needs to build stronger linkages between academia and industry so that new technologies can be quickly transferred from the laboratory to the market.
Making the Next Move
The quest for innovation is often driven by a desire to make a difference, to create something that will positively impact the world. However, the commercial potential of an innovation is also a powerful motivating force.
The greater the potential for commercialisation, the faster progress will be made. This is because commercialisation provides the funding essential for research and development, and creates a market for the finished product.
In the case of innovations with life-saving potential, such as new medical treatments, the speed of progress is often crucial. The faster an innovation can be brought to market, the sooner it will be available to help those who need it most.
Indeed, the ability to scale is perhaps the greatest lever for technology towards commercialisation. Consequently, both commercialisation and impact are important factors in driving innovation.
This is what we call a “VIRTUOUS cycle”, where innovation is allowed to flourish, with a clear pathway to commercialisation boosted by a supportive and robust ecosystem combining infrastructure and regulatory support, talent and market access, etc.
Furthermore, to achieve affordable, accessible healthcare for all, we need a public-government policy that supports a robust and cohesive ecosystem. This ecosystem must have well-developed regulatory frameworks and a central agency to provide clarity to aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators.
Only with these components in place will we be able to see the advancements in health technology that we so desperately need. We must work towards this goal now so that future generations can enjoy good health and long lives. With the right policies in place, we can make this a reality.
MRANTI to the Fore
MRANTI sees itself as the “glue” that binds the tangible and intangible aspect of innovation, combining advanced technology hubs with a robust ecosystem that will see the ‘quadruple helix’ of Government, Industry, Academia and Civil Society combined to drive the National Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) 2021-2030 agenda.
Our primary mission is to accelerate technology and innovation creation, development and commercialisation. We believe it is essential to build a pipeline encompassing the entire value chain, from startups in incubation to high-growth tech companies.
We are committed to supporting startups and tech companies at every stage of their development and constantly looking for ways to improve our ecosystem. One of the challenges of developing new healthcare innovations is that it can often be difficult to predict how well they will work in real-world settings.
As a result, creating a safe environment where multiple stakeholders can come together to experiment, develop and discover the viability of new products and applications is important. This environment typically involves healthcare providers, patients, caregivers, insurers and policy-makers.
By working together in a Sandbox, these stakeholders can help ensure that new innovations are effective and meet the needs of those using them. In addition, this process can help to identify potential risks and unintended consequences before they occur. Additionally, on top of technology validation, sandbox will also enable relevant stakeholders to conduct health economic assessment, ultimately ensuring any adoption of new innovations is cost effective for the health service.
Ultimately, by creating a space for multiple stakeholders to collaborate, we can ensure that new healthcare innovations are safe and effective before they are widely implemented. Medical technology is more important than ever before. With an ageing population and rising healthcare costs, there is a growing need for innovative medical solutions.
By investing in medical technology, Malaysia can create new jobs, improve patient care and make its healthcare system even more efficient. In a global marketplace that is increasingly driven by innovation, Malaysia’s investment in medical technology will be an essential piece of its economic development strategy.