Sept 21, 1999

Full speed ahead

By ANITA MATTHEWS

 

HOSPITAL Selayang in Selangor became the nation's first paperless and filmless medical centre when it rolled out portions of IT beginning Aug 2.

According to the head of department of paediatrics Datuk Dr A. Jai Mohan, Selayang Hospital offers arguably the most integrated total hospital information system anywhere in the world.

And Dr Jai Mohan should know as he is the Health Ministry telehealth steering committee advisor.

``We are already seeing a small number of patients by appointment only,'' says the well-known telemedicine champion.

The Selayang Hospital is expected to be fully functional next year.

The total health information system at Selayang integrates many different components. Among them are a clinical information system, laboratory information system, imaging information system, critical care information system, personnel management system, resource management and electronic commerce.

Hospital Selayang, which is currently running as a standalone entity, will be linked to clinics in the vicinity of Putrajaya including Hospital Putrajaya which will open next year.

According to health ministry director-general Tan Sri Abu Bakar Suleiman, seven new public hospitals will be computerised in stages. Existing hospitals and rural health clinics will be incrementally computerised over time.

The link will allow these hospitals and clinics to expand the ability to share medical records seamlessly.

At present, healthcare is fragmented and individual health records reside in islands and investigations are often repeated due to lack of access to previous records.

Adds deputy director-general at the Ministry of Health Datuk Dr Abdul Aziz Mahmood, the government is currently developing prototypes at chosen hospitals and rural clinics.

Each pilot application is given clinical algorithms to be worked on where levels of care - primary, secondary, tertiary and home - are being taken into consideration to determine the workflow process.

Aziz adds that the criteria for consultation is added as well. The tests and experiments will hopefully yield a set of guidelines to implement telemedicine throughout the country.

``We have to re-engineer our processes to include the way we work so that IT can be maximised,'' he reiterates.

Areas that are being re-engineered include client-flow, information-flow and staff-flow to reduce redundant processes.

Tele-consultation projects that include tele-primary care, tele-oncology, tele-nephrology and tele-psychiatry have already been set up in almost all states.

The lifetime health plan project will be gradually rolled out at Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Hospital Kajang, Hospital Ipoh, Hospital Seremban and neighbouring health clinics.

This, says Dr Jai Mohan, will increase seamless access to health records and ultimately accords each individual with a lifetime health record. Periodic examinations through a person's life will enable education and training, screening, bracketing key categories and intervention to reduce risk based on care plans, he points out.

These care plans will be drawn up by experts and guidelines will be provided for practitioners to provide quality healthcare to patients.

As telemedicine and the Internet is associated with speed, it won't be long after its implementation that patients will begin to expect shorter queues at general hospitals.