Global Health Asia-Pacific Special Issue - Page 56

Malaysia
Our HomeConnect has been providing home-based services which traditionally would have been performed in a hospital setting , such as physiotherapy , rehabilitation , wound care , and nursing care . in the coming months with more airlines resuming their flights , vaccination programmes , travellers ’ confidence , and an increase in health promotional activities and roadshows . COVID-19 has certainly made people more aware of their own health and take control of their wellness .
Q . The disruption caused by the pandemic led many healthcare providers to ramp up their skills in telemedicine as many patients preferred doing a video consultation . Do you think this is a trend that will continue in the future ? Bryan Lin : One of the silver linings that came out of the pandemic is the accelerated adoption rate of digital health for the healthcare industry . SJMC houses our own telemedicine service , known as Teleconnect Centre for medical enquiries as well as our Telehealth Plus , where virtual consultations and follow-ups can be done .
I am confident that this trend will continue , and the possibilities are endless . Consumers can now have choices to access healthcare through digitally enabled service or in-person service . I think digitally savvy consumers will opt for options that allow them to access healthcare remotely from the comfort of their homes or wherever they are , while there are still some groups of people who prefer to access healthcare physically . The future is probably a hybrid approach .
Q . During the pandemic , Ramsay Sime Darby Healthcare offered virtual consultations for general health screening , physiotherapy , occupational and speech therapists as well as clinical psychologists and dietitians . Are you still seeing a high number of patients opting for telemedicine services even if the health crisis sparked by COVID-19 is now under control ? If yes , what are the most popular services and are they popular among local or international patients ? Bryan Lin : Over the last few months , we have seen a lower utilisation of such virtual consultations as movements are now possible . However , we are happy to see that home health service is picking up . There appear to be more patients who are more comfortable seeking medical treatment from the comfort of their own homes . Our HomeConnect has been providing homebased services which traditionally would have been performed in a hospital setting , such as physiotherapy , rehabilitation , wound care , and nursing care .
Q . Association of Private Hospitals president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said the government should offer private hospitals that treat medical tourists some tax incentives to boost the sector . What ’ s your take on this issue and what types of tax incentives do you think would work ? Bryan Lin : We are fortunate that in Malaysia our government is encouraging the private sector to ramp up their marketing activities to attract patients from abroad . Tax incentives are currently available for private hospitals who actively treat health tourists . I think that the private sector can also benefit from tax allowances that help private hospitals cover both direct operational costs incurred in promotional activities and capital expenditures in technology to elevate the experience of our health tourists and bring our healthcare services closer to their homes .
Q . Are there other incentives or similar measures that could boost the sector ? Bryan Lin : One initiative that our government can look at is nursing personnel . Malaysia is facing a major challenge in talent development and retention as some countries offer better salaries , incentives , and benefits to attract our nurses . For example , the Singapore government has clearly stated that it plans to aggressively ramp up its foreign nurse recruitment plans by targeting 4,000 nurses from abroad by the end of 2023 . We will need to proactively take measures to tackle this potential attrition . While we will do our best to offer higher wages and other incentives , we certainly hope that our economy will improve further so that our currency can be strengthened .
At the same time , another measure to help the industry would be to allow hospitals to recruit foreign nurses . This would certainly help lessen the burden on the existing workforce and counter the attrition rate of Malaysian nurses leaving for other countries . Tackling the manpower shortages would help lighten the workload for us to better serve and support the medical tourism agenda of the government .
Q . Are there any important lessons that healthcare providers should learn from the pandemic in order to make the healthcare system in Malaysia better prepared for the emergence of new infectious diseases and to make the health travel industry more resilient during health crises ? Bryan Lin : The pandemic has certainly helped many of us look at things differently . Some of the lessons would be : 1 . The importance of infection control and faster response as this is key to curbing infectious diseases
2 . Better mechanical and electrical systems to manage infectious diseases
3 . Better isolation infrastructure and precautions outside the building
4 . Purpose built isolation unit within the hospital to better contain and manage infectious diseases 5 . Better IT technology to communicate and consult with patients 6 . Current laws / regulations need to be reviewed to be more business friendly and encourage the use of digital technology
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