TELEMEDICINE: MALAYSIA’S FUTURE HEALTHCARE SERVICES
Telemedicine represents significant technological, cultural, and social development (Bashur et al., 2001). According to Bangert et al. (1999), telemedicine represents a paradigm change that will affect all levels of healthcare organisations. Nevertheless, despite the immense promise of telemedicine, only a tiny fraction of the countless projects are ultimately adopted in standard medical care, especially in developing countries.
The Malaysian government and the Ministry of Health want to construct a developed and advanced healthcare system by utilising new technologies and putting them into practice to meet Malaysia’s healthcare vision, mission and goals (Karia, 2016). The Malaysian government established the Telemedicine Blueprint in 1997 because of the knowledge economy, high health standards, rapid technological advancement, green innovation, and the digital society (Ministry of Health, 1997). With the commencement of the Malaysian Telemedicine Blueprint in July 1997, Malaysia has taken initiatives to enhance and integrate e-health into its public healthcare system. Sadly, due to insufficient infrastructure, fast funding, and limited public acceptance, the first push for telemedicine to improve lifelong health in Malaysia has yet to result in a substantial telemedicine industry (Maarop & Than, 2012).
Our research study aims to tackle one of the most critical and challenging trends in the current healthcare service: telemedicine. Our study is focused primarily on telemedicine perception and implementation that explores the Malaysian community in Klang Valley and Batu Pahat and their satisfaction level and willingness to continue using the service in the future. Hence, it emphasises individuals’ points of view on telemedicine services, such as evaluation, perception and decision on accepting and rejecting telemedicine.
In our study, most informants believe telemedicine should be beneficial and an effective way to obtain consultations. The benefits can vary from saving a great deal of time and money to the hassle of travelling and waiting at the clinic. The majority of the patients concur with this. However, throughout the interviews, we identified that the understanding and awareness of Malaysians regarding telemedicine service could be improved. Most patients only noticed due to the recent event which forced them to use the service – COVID-19. We believe that most Malaysians are also unfamiliar with the use of telemedicine services in the country.
Moreover, despite the implementation of this service that can benefit both healthcare providers and patients, our results show that patients are dissatisfied with the current service implementation of our healthcare provider, subsequently affecting their decision to withdraw from reusing the service in the future. We identified several significant issues that led to their decision, such as knowledge and awareness regarding the service, quality, and technicality. For example, most informants claimed to have problems with the payment gateway, system pathway and integration, internet connection coverage and stability, online consultation skills from medical practitioners and other related staff, and drug delivery systems. Furthermore, some informants stated that they prefer to have a face-to-face consultation with their clinicians and make payments rather than deal with the numerous troublesome technical issues when using telemedicine services.
To summarise this study, it is undeniable that the service can benefit its users In many ways. However, in order to achieve the purpose of implementing the service, there is a need for the healthcare provider to improve the technicality of the system service prior to implementation. Moreover, the Malaysian government under the Ministry of Health should equip citizens with sufficient knowledge in order to create awareness regarding the service and its advantages. It is crucial to ensure that the service users are knowledgeable and well-prepared once the service is improved and ready to be implemented by our healthcare providers.
In order to create awareness of the existence of the service, healthcare providers should consider implementing a program with a similar idea to telemedicine, such as a health screening program that only uses one part of the telemedicine entity after the health screening program. Therefore, patients do not need to go to the hospital for consultation once all the investigations (like laboratory results) are available; instead able to use teleconsultation at their convenience. Finally, we encountered some obstacles and challenges while walking through this study. However, despite all these limitations, we hope this study helps the door to other researchers in the future to explore and improve our telemedicine service in Malaysia, thus improving our healthcare system in general.
Muhammad Taufiq Bin Norizan
Noraiman Bin Roslim