The Director-General of Health Malaysia stated that the government is continuously developing and managing standards with international benchmarking. Among the standards implemented include MyHRDM, MyHDD, ICD, ISO TC 215, LOINC & SNOMED CT.
Part of the MOH Malaysia’s ICT Strategic Plan is to achieve a standardised digital health agenda and the vision is for an integrated healthcare system to provide comprehensive health services to the people.
An integrated healthcare system requires information that flows from different systems and various sources but interoperability between information systems still remains a challenge. Therefore, promoting the use of health informatics standards that are recognised internationally is important in pursuing this vision.
The Minister of Health Malaysia, in one of his remarks, stated that the Ministry of Health (MoH) is committed to ensuring that the electronic medical record (EMR) system can be realised within three to five years in all hospitals and clinics nationwide.
The EMR system is one of the most basic and fundamental digital infrastructures for building a digital health ecosystem. The system will allow all clinics and hospitals in Malaysia to be integrated.
It will then enable the health facilities to achieve a seamless level of patient information services and systems, with no obstacles or barriers to accessing patient information.
Fortunately, with the EMR system, the MoH will be able to enhance the effectiveness of health services in terms of patient care and management.
Benefits of local and regional SNOMED CT adoption
As one of the most comprehensive medical terminology standards, SNOMED CT is an international standard and validated clinically through a rigorous process. One of the main advantages of SNOMED CT is its comprehensive clinical concepts and relationships, which enable a wider range of analyses of healthcare data that could not be done previously.
There are currently troves of health data waiting to be analysed; with the advancement of technology and SNOMED CT, this data can be used and analysed by clinicians and healthcare policymakers to further improve the services and patient outcomes.
Within the Asia Pacific region, the SNOMED CT community is also growing with members in countries such as Australia, Brunei, Hong Kong, India, Kazakhstan, New Zealand and Singapore.
With a growing community, member countries can share their views and experience, particularly in the implementation of SNOMED-CT in their own countries – the exchange of ideas and collaboration will further improve the quality of healthcare services of the member countries.
With increasing numbers of participating countries, the journey towards interoperability of patient data and improvement of service delivery for treatment across borders can be achieved faster.
Implementing SNOMED in Malaysia
MOH Malaysia is interested in analysing health data and utilising it for evidence-based decision making and planning at the highest level.
SNOMED CT allows for improved data analytics at the Ministry through the development of MyHarmony and Malaysian Health Data Warehouse (MyHDW). MyHarmony is a feature of MyHDW that has the ability to deal with unstructured data.
Through using MyHarmony with SNOMED CT, more information from free-text utilising the SNOMED CT structure can be generated, reducing the effort needed to collect data in a structured manner such as in registry and indicator reports.
Another benefit of using MyHarmony with SNOMED CT is the ability to generate new information by retrospectively running new queries on old discharge summary records, which reduces the effort and time to collect data in a prospective manner when new questions arise, such as for indicator reports that often change on a yearly basis.
Information can be delivered in a timelier fashion through using MyHarmony with SNOMED CT and this enables clinicians and health managers to plan and take action without waiting for a yearly report which can take one to three years.
The future of SNOMED-CT in Malaysia
Initially, the government aims to want to expand the usage scope of SNOMED CT with MyHarmony. Currently, researchers are in the middle of developing the dental procedure reference dataset. The aim is to extract the data on dental procedures by analysing the procedure data written in free text by dental clinicians.
In addition, the government also plans to expand SNOMED CT’s usage for drug and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
To increase the awareness of SNOMED CT, the government is reaching out to the vendor community in hopes that more vendors will utilise SNOMED CT in their products and benefit from its functionalities.