A recent panel discussion found that Malaysia’s world-class healthcare services was in dire need of creative digital solutions to enable it to function at an optimal level after being strained by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is because almost 50 per cent of the nation’s population relied solely on the public healthcare system due to the inability to afford private coverage.
The matter needed urgent attention as non-communicable diseases (NCDs) accounted for 74 per cent of the country’s deaths and cost the nation RM8.9 billion in productivity losses.
Being able to intervene and enable patients to access and adhere to treatment is a crucial step for healthcare stakeholders to take in preventing suboptimal medical outcomes that generate knock-on effects on economic productivity.
The conclusion was derived from the recently held discussion on “Making healthcare access sustainable: Enhancing the patient experience during and beyond the pandemic” hosted by Axios International.
Moderated by Dishen Kumar, anchor of Astro AWANI’s Health Matters, the panel consisted of Roshel Jayasundera, Director, Global Consulting, Axios International and Datuk Dr Mohamed Ibrahim Wahid, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Beacon Hospital.
The hour-long webinar had delivered insights on the role of public-private partnerships and digital health solutions in enabling sustainable healthcare access in Malaysia.
Over the past year, the pandemic has placed a strain on the healthcare system, while it concurrently grapples with the growing incidence of chronic conditions within its ageing population.
Alongside continued medical inflation, the discussion found that the rising costs of long-term, expensive specialised treatments, the growth of the healthcare burden in Malaysia was not to be overlooked, especially as the nation progressed into a developed one.
Speaking at the panel about the reasons why patients prematurely conclude their long-term treatments for conditions such as cancer, Dr Ibrahim said: “There are financial and non-financial reasons that may deter patients from adhering to long term medical care.
“Sustaining the high cost of treatment may be the main cause for non-compliance.
“Medication costs for NCDs, especially cancer, have rapidly risen over the years, severely impacting a patient’s ability to fund their own treatment.
“It is imperative that this financial burden is shared by other healthcare stakeholders including pharmaceutical companies and hospitals so that a wider section of the society is able to access healthcare and is empowered with a good quality of life,” he said.
Known for its world-class healthcare services as cited by the 2019 International Living Annual Global Retirement Index, Malaysia allocates RM30.6 billion annually on healthcare alone.
“If there’s one thing that COVID-19 has taught us, it is the pitfall of working in silos – a unified healthcare industry will have the ability to forge new innovative solutions, no matter what healthcare challenge confronts us in the future,” said Jayasundera.
The panel also discussed the role of digital solutions in enabling healthcare access for patients, a rising trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed the structural gaps in reaching patients outside of hospital settings.
“Healthcare systems across the world are still struggling to regain their footing one year into the pandemic. This is bleak for patients on chronic medication, who require regular treatment and follow-ups to prevent further health complications,” Jayasundera said.
“When these patients refrain from visiting health facilities for various reasons such as the risk of COVID-19 infection, digital tools play a significant role in ensuring continued access to medical treatments.”
Axios International is a healthcare access company with experience in developing and implementing solutions to patient access challenges in emerging markets.
To date, the company has supported over 1000 patients across 15 support programs in Malaysia.
Panelist: Datuk Dr Mohamed Ibrahim Wahid (left) and Roshel Jayasundera. Photo: Supplied.