‘Digital health future of medicine’

DIGITAL health is driving a revolution in healthcare, merging digital technologies in healthcare with mobile health, health information technology, wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, as well as personalised medicine.

This convergence of digital technologies and health, healthcare and society, said International Medical University (IMU) vice chancellor Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Baba (pic), offers many opportunities to improve medical outcomes and enhance efficiency.

“The Covid-19 pandemic showed us the value of digital technology in providing contactless communications, monitoring upcoming clusters and supporting the development of safe and effective vaccines.

“In the years to come, digital health and related technologies will continue to be an important and essential driver, and transform healthcare as we know it.

“This transformation is needed to ensure safer, more efficient, effective, personalised, equitable and sustainable health and care delivery for our people,” he said.He was speaking at the Digital Health Dialogue featuring panellists MyDigital chief executive officer Fabian Bigar, Doc2Us co-founder and chief executive officer Dr Raymond Choy, and IMU programme director (postgraduate programmes of health informatics and analytics) Prof Patrice François Boursier.

Organised by IMU, the dialogue promoting multi-sectoral efforts in developing the digital health industry was held on Aug 20.

Prof Boursier spoke about the need to educate and raise awareness of digital health among students and the public, while forming closer relationships and driving collaboration between educational institutions with different competencies in Malaysia and other countries.

He said research and development collaboration between industry players and the government is important to create digital health products for the future.Looking to other nations for examples and best practices, he added, would be helpful.

Industry players, said Dr Choy, should see themselves as data centres for policymakers and academia to understand what is going on in the real world.

Bigar added that as a government-based initiative, MyDigital drives public-private partnerships while supporting the acceleration of digital and technological transformation of the economy.

MyDigital’s efforts, he said, include a task force to facilitate solutions for its private sector partners facing challenges in the process of adopting digital technology and infrastructure to help bring to life the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint and the National 4IR Policy.

The dialogue was part of the Digital Health Week held to enhance understanding and highlight opportunities in the fast-expanding industry, in conjunction with IMU’s 30th anniversary.

The Digital Health Week also saw talented students share great ideas on how to tackle the most pressing healthcare issues in Malaysia today using digital technology as part of the Digital Health Ideation Challenge.

The challenge encouraged students aged between 15 and 20 to develop digital health solutions to solve common problems with regard to access to healthcare in rural areas, mental health issues and obesity.

The top three winners of the challenge were Lee Yen Tong from Tzu Chi International School, Eugene Goh Yu Hin from Sunway College Kuala Lumpur, and Srivanth Sivakumar from HELP Academy.

The trio proposed solutions to address mental health issues in the country.

Lee envisions his “Pingki the Penguin Robot” to be a “personal mental health companion” that is small, affordable and low-maintenance with a long lifespan.

Using friendly and easy to understand facial expressions, “Pingki” allows users to access counselling, meditation, deep breathing or mindfulness exercises, entertainment, motivation, and health tracking services.

The “Mentalify Super App” by Goh was conceptualised to provide easier, faster, highly accessible and affordable mental health services for all – anytime, anywhere – using a highly scalable, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered digital mental health platform.

Srivanth’s idea for “Mennect”, or “Mental Health Simplified”, connects people suffering from mental health issues to pets or other people. The app assesses users’ mental state through a series of questions. An AI algorithm analyses the answers and identify the mental health issue they are facing.

Chief judge Freddy Loo said he was very impressed with the maturity level, enthusiasm and sense of purpose demonstrated by the young participants during their presentations.

“I was fascinated by how well they had articulated the social agenda behind the technology. They understood that the application of digital health is about improving the quality of life, and not about offering the best digital products or services.

“However, what stood out among the winning ideas were the exceptional value and viability of their solutions in addressing pressing health issues in Malaysia,” Loo, who is the analytics, digital and consulting director of Fusionex, said.

The winners received prizes worth up to RM10,000 and an internship opportunity with a health tech company in Malaysia.

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