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Sandeep Singh Dhillon
Big Data to revolutionize healthcare in Malaysia – MIMS Malaysia
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For a long time, returning visitors to government clinics in Malaysia would identify themselves at the reception counter, and wait for the officer on duty to retrieve the odd stack of cards and papers that made up their health record.

When did you last–? The doctor might ask, rifling through the stack and settling for an estimate as both parties are unable to provide the exact information. Go to a different medical institution and you would be started on a new stack altogether, with no thought or reference of the old stack.

This situation is about to change however, as the Malaysia Health Data Warehouse project (MyHDW) begins its implementation this August, bringing big data to the Malaysian healthcare scene.

Introduced only within the last few decades, big data is defined as extremely large sets of data or amounts of information that can only be analysed by computers to reveal patterns, trends and associations. In this case it refers to a consolidation of patient information from the entire public healthcare system.

The first dataset to go in the Malaysia Health Data Warehouse is the Sistem Maklumat Rawatan Perubatan (SMRP), which will collect information from patients’ every visit to healthcare centres.

MyHDW is meant to be a trusted, comprehensive source of healthcare data, which must come from every healthcare visit, including those from allied health professionals, traditional and complementary medicine practitioners, and maternal health, said Dr Md Khadzir, MOH Planning Division deputy director and Health Informatics Centre head.

“In the data warehouse, we should be able to link them all up,” he said, giving the example of being able to track how many patients diagnosed with stroke go on to visit physiotherapists, occupational therapists and traditional medicine practitioners.

“So, this is the intention: to have a snapshot of every visit to the healthcare system and to provide value-added data to the people in the Ministry of Health to make policy.”

The implementation of this system brings the significant benefit of unifying patient data. As Clinical Research Centre director Dr Goh Pik Pin from Taylor’s University notes, there is a lot of data from the nation’s public healthcare system, but it is inaccessible and cannot be used because it is stored in various places, in different formats.

With a single system for medical records including patient history, current and previous medications, clinical tests and imaging results, doctors will be able to quickly obtain more accurate information about their patients. This would the process of diagnosis and treatment more efficient, saving both time and costs for patients and healthcare providers alike.

Big data can also be utilised for its high analytical potential. Information from the general population can and should be used as a basis for making and assessing public health policy. The large amounts of available data would also be a boon for medical research efforts. MIMS

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