Malaysia Launches Telemedicine Pilot For Remote Areas

By Lesley Moore, Newsbytes.

24 Jan 2000, 7:00 PM CST

Malaysia Launches Telemedicine Pilot For Remote Areas 01/24/00 KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, 2000 JAN 24 (NB) -- By Lesley Moore, Newsbytes. Malaysia has an embarked on an ambitious telemedicine project which aims to bring cost-effective, specialist healthcare to remote parts of the country via extensive use of technology.

Under the 30-month pilot program, heart patients in rural areas, for example, will no longer need to travel to the nation's capital city to confirm if they need bypass surgery, and serious accident victims may get quicker specialist attention prior to treatment.

WorldCare Health Malaysia (WorldCare) Sdn Bhd (WCHM), an affiliate of leading global, e-health services company WorldCare Limited, was awarded a 21 million ringgit (US$5.53 million) contract last week by the Malaysian Government to set up the teleconsultation network in 41 hospitals and clinics around the country.

When fully operational, the system will allow medical staff to process and deliver records, access radiology and pathology and other medical images, and combine video-based consultation for specialist advice in various disciplines, said Rajiv Ramaprasad, managing director of WCHM.

"WorldCare is very pleased the Ministry of Health recognized our ability to integrate leading edge technology into a strategic solution that will help enhance the delivery of healthcare management and help reduce patient transfers and specialists visits," said Ramaprasad.

According to WorldCare, the project is the world's first nationally established telemedicine network that is a unique public-private partnership and will bring about better healthcare to outlying areas where specialist care is lacking.

Ramaprasad feels confident that the pilot teleconsultation project may become the industry standard throughout Asia.

The initial focus of the project will be on four areas Cardiovascular, Cancer, Antenatal/Perinatal, and Trauma and Emergency Medicine.

It will link four major hospitals, Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Hospital Ipoh in Perak, and Hospital Kota Bharu in the northern state of Kelantan, and Hospital Queen Elizabeth in Kota Kinabalu in east Malaysia as primary hubs, and 37 "spokes" in district clinics and government hospitals throughout the country.

WCHM is a joint venture company whose partners, in addition to WorldCare Limited, include Pantai Holdings Bhd, which runs a network of hospitals locally, Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan and Concorde Investments Ltd of Saudi Arabia.

WorldCare began operations in 1994 and is currently providing services in the US, France, Britain and various Middle Eastern countries.

WorldCare has assembled a consortium of world-class academic medical institutions to provide its patient care, information, continuing medical education and other services which include the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Duke University Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University Hospital and the London Clinic, one of the largest private specialist medical centers based in Britain.

Telemedicine is one of the four flagship applications meant to kickstart Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project, fashioned after the Silicon Valley.

The Malaysian Health Ministry also awarded three other components of the telemedicine flagship to another local company Medical Online Sdn Bhd.

The three are: Lifetime Health Plan, which will include keeping "womb to tomb" personal medical records in electronic form of all citizens; Mass Customized/Personalized Health Information and Education, a generic electronic database on various ailments; and Continuing Medical Education, which will enable medical personnel to constantly upgrade their skills through multimedia courseware.

Worth 74 million ringgit ($19.47 million), the three components will be rolled out over the next five years.

WorldCare Health Malaysia (WorldCare) Sdn Bhd can be found on the Web, at .

Exchange Rate: $1 = 3.80 ringgit

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