WHO recommends a minimum threshold of 2.3 health workers (doctors, nurses, midwives) for 1,000 people to achieve health-related Millennium Development Goals: reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Myanmar’s 1.49 health worker to person ratio is below the minimum requirement. In remote areas, there is limited access to quality healthcare, and tertiary referral hospitals are available only at major cities. To address the situation would need time and funding; the country would need to start with its education system, make medical schools more attractive and valuable, and ensure medical training is more qualified on an international level.
In the meantime, local doctors could use a little help from technology.
Speaking from personal experience, patient history is not recorded properly yet in clinics, due to high patient volume. Everything is on paper: from documenting personal data to consultations.
Reducing these administrative duties would also lessen workload on the health workers, be more familiar with patients, as well as provide efficient and accurate consultation.
Health Information Systems (HIS)
HIS refers to any system that stores information related to individuals’ health and activities of health organisations. The system would be most useful in rural and remote areas. By adding cloud services, HIS would make people’s health histories easily available, decreasing human errors, and understand people’s movements in seeking for clinical care. This would help greatly with allocating health workers to each place, find commonalities in diseases, and be aware of which areas would need health education sessions or awareness campaigns.
Technology can be used not only for capturing information, but also for getting external help, ensuring quality healthcare. In 2013, a telemedicine service was introduced by Apollo Group of Hospitals from India. Patients in clinics or hospitals in Yangon are able to consult with Indian specialist doctors and access quality healthcare from Apollo Hospitals in Delhi.
In the following year, Telenor Myanmar launched a mobile healthcare service with Marie Stopes International Myanmar (MSIM) that specialises in reproductive, maternal and child health to reach remote areas in Myanmar. About 70% of the population resides in rural areas, with 1.01% growth rate; hence, it is vital to spread accurate information about maternal healthcare to these regions.
With the quick adoption of mobile technology in the country, the health advice will be available real-time through call centers by healthcare professionals, text and voice SMS, and interactive voice response. Telenor Myanmar also plans to expand the programme to 3G-enabled mobile services so that patients in rural areas can consult with doctors in major cities during emergency situations. Recently, the telco launched a mobile application to educate expectant mothers and young individuals about reproductive health.
Opportunities for Private Players
Between 2011-2014, the number of private hospitals in the country increased by 10%. World Bank reported in 2012 that 93% of spending in healthcare services come from individuals’ pockets. Health expenditures averaged around $30 in the last few years, and it was expected to increase exponentially to $200 within the decade, according to CEO of Pun Hlaing Hospital, a private health provider in Yangon.
With the rise in demand for quality healthcare, there is an opportunity for healthcare technology providers to enter the market. Mobiles can definitely play a bigger role in healthcare in the future of Myanmar, not only in access to better healthcare but also in recording information.
However, we do need to make sure that we go in the right direction, with technology integration.
At our 18th edition in Yangon, happening on 23rd-24th November, Dr. Polawat Witoolkollachit of Thailand Ministry of Health will explain how HIS is rolled out in the country and the challenges as well as benefits that come with HIS. Bangkok is one of the preferred destinations where Burmese like to get their health checked; this will be an opportunity to understand why and how the Bangkok hospitals work.
Additionally, Mr. Lars Erik Tellmann, CEO of Telenor Myanmar that developed healthcare app, Mate, will also be joining us in the Keynote panel to discuss about the role telecoms industry plays in Myanmar. If you want more information, download our brochure here!
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May 31, 2017