Digitalisation is the future of healthcare

Sunway Medical Centre expands accessibility of healthcare services through channel diversification using digital innovation

by AZALEA AZUAR

IN 2020, we were forced to say goodbye to big concerts, travelling and open houses.

The Covid-19 pandemic has limited our physical movements, but in order to stay connected, we have also learned to embrace technology rapidly.

Many sectors including schools adapted to digitalisation with Zoom meetings, Google Meet classrooms, online shops, food deliveries and using contactless payments.

For Sunway Medical Centre, since many patients are required to embrace the new normal due to the pandemic, the hospital is able to execute its digital transformation plan which aims to improve patient care and experience, accessibility to healthcare services, as well as operational efficiency.

Its digital transformation plan would also improve healthcare delivery while staying relevant in the changing healthcare landscape.

Embracing New Normal

To ensure the safety and efficiency of its healthcare staff, Sunway Medical Centre has joined hands with Sunway iLabs during the Movement Control Order (MCO) to build a contactless Covid-19 pod to conduct testing for suspected patients.

These air-conditioned and filtered contactless pods not only decreased the usage of personal protective equipment (PPE), but also allowed medical officers to stay within the booths for longer periods of time during their shifts.

As there was a global shortage of PPE, the pods minimised the need for them and the tedious process for the staff to wear and remove them. This process itself reduced the risks where infections could potentially occur.

Sunway Medical Centre has also implemented the e-health declaration for all patients, visitors, staff and doctors entering the hospital to manage infection risks.

The process is simple, where visitors just need to scan the QR codes for contact tracing using the hospital’s app and link to the government’s MySejahtera app.

Other precautionary measures to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 were using artificial intelligence (AI) technology for facial recognition to ensure face mask compliance within the premises, and thermal scanners at all hospital entrances.

According to Sunway Healthcare Clinical Services COO Dr Ang Kong Hui, they experienced a decline of patient visits like other private healthcare providers.

“Having strict precautionary measures in place — investing in healthcare equipment and in-house molecular Covid-PCR testing with a shorter turnaround time increases patients’ confidence in us. We continue to learn by engaging the Health Ministry on ways to make our hospital a safer place for both patients and staff,” he said.

Sunway Medical Centre has joined hands with Sunway iLabs during the MCO to build a contactless Covid-19 pod to conduct testing for suspected patients

What is Next in Digital Healthcare?

Most healthcare providers are falling behind in terms of digitalisation for their hospital operations.

Therefore, Sunway Medical Centre has decided to take a step forward and expand the accessibility of healthcare services through channel diversification using digital innovation and partnerships.

Among the plans are expanding Sunway Medical Centre’s home nursing and medication services, ‘SunMed @ Home’, as well as partnering other care providers to equip general practitioners with advanced electrocardiography (ECG) diagnosis capabilities to allow early detection of heart-related conditions.

Dr Ang said as digital and mobile technologies become part of people’s lifestyle, Sunway Medical Centre is continuously looking into providing good quality healthcare services in a convenient and secured manner.

The SunMed GO app enables patients to easily search for doctors, schedule appointments online and consult with specialists through teleconsultation.

“We plan to enhance the mobile application further to provide new types of services including online payment capabilities and access to medical reports,” he added.

Sunway Medical Centre group ICT director William Chau believes that it is essential for healthcare providers to embrace the impending change through a holistic digital strategy and transformation with the advancement of digital technologies.

“I believe that the future of digital healthcare lies in developing a group-wide, integrated and orchestrated data and analytics capability using analytics and AI or machine learning to enable data-driven healthcare operations and strategy,” he said.

Continuous advancement in digital technologies, proliferation of the Internet and mobile devices, and wider acceptance of digital services will shape the future of healthcare.

“These factors will lead to an increase in the demand for more effective treatment, increased accessibility and improved experience.

“The shift in consumer demands, increased competition from existing healthcare providers, and the entry of new digital players in the healthcare space will not only intensify competition, but also disrupt the current industry landscape,” said Chau.

It is either hospitals adapt and innovate or risk being left behind.

Improving Healthcare Delivery, Operational Efficiency

Since patients want healthcare services without travelling to hospitals all the time, Sunway Medical Centre has launched their teleconsultations so that patients can consult their doctors, speech therapists, audiologists, rehabilitation team and dietitians without being physically present at the hospital.

It has conducted more than 1,000 teleconsultation sessions since March 2020.

Sunway Medical Centre has also introduced the Telemedicine Command Centre in early January this year for new patients who need a second opinion on medical-related issues, providing first-level advisory services to patients remotely.

“The IoT (Internet of Things) — the network of connecting devices to one another via the Internet to allow data sharing and analysis — is used to monitor patients’ clinical and vital signs remotely. Data collected can also be used in early warning algorithms to predict possible adverse events before they occur,” said Chau.

Moreover, the hospital’s first telemonitoring service for diabetic patients was launched this year.

It enables caregivers to measure their patients’ blood glucose remotely to provide coaching of lifestyle changes.

Chemocare is another example of Sunway Medical Centre’s digitalisation initiative which would help cancer patients monitor and report chemotherapy side effects to know when they need to see a clinician.

Chau said for greater operational efficiency, Sunway Medical Centre is looking into implementing a new Electronic Medical Record system to digitise patients’ records for improved patient care and to reduce the need for manual intervention of records.

Operations tracking and report, and teleconsultation were among the initiatives that improved the overall hospital operations and efficiency last year and also facilitated informed decision-making.

“Our new real-time hospital operations tracking system allowed us to reduce turnaround time for room cleaning to an hour, reducing discharge time by 55%.

“The use of automated medication dispensing machines have also reduced turnaround time for medication supply to wards by 45%,” Chau concluded.