Why Pinlon Group of Hospitals is focusing on interoperability and seamless data sharing

The Chief Executive Officer of Pinlon Hospital in Myanmar explains why enabling seamless data sharing among healthcare practitioners is important in this digital era of healthcare.

Like many healthcare providers around the world, Myanmar’s Pinlon Group of Hospitals ramped up their digitalisation efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now into their 15th year of operations, and with three healthcare facilities set up in Myanmar, Pinlon started migrating to a newer, more advanced health management information system (HMIS) and electronic medical record (EMR) system at the start of 2022.

Mr Kaung Myat, Chief Executive Officer, Pinlon Hospital

But according to Pinlon Hospital Chief Executive Officer, Mr Kaung Myat, this is only the beginning of a massive digital transformation that the hospital is undertaking, with the overall aim of allowing for data to be seamlessly shared among the relevant medical personnel.

Speaking to Hospital Management Asia (HMA), Mr Myat said: “Pinlon Hospital has also allocated investment in establishing an Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem in the hospital where interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines such as patient monitors and transport monitors will be web-enabled and will have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

“Our end goal is to enable seamless data sharing with concerned medical personnel throughout patient care within the hospital and outside the hospital (on our ambulances – real-time decision making and consultation before arrival at the Emergency Department). We believe that timeliness, efficiency and effectiveness are three important factors in patient care, and a well-established HMIS and IoT system can help us improve in these factors collectively as a hospital.

“The hospital group as a whole has embarked on working towards a more efficient cross-platform patient data access system for all the medical personnel working under the group.”

Other areas of focus for Pinlon Hospital this year include “polishing the existing technology within the hospital”, as well as adding to the number of critical and intensive care beds across all hospitals within the group. In addition, the hospital group will also look to expand the capacity of their medical workforce.

The need for an effective data sharing system is further exacerbated by the recent rise in popularity in telemedicine and remote care.

“Adopting HMIS and EMR is important in telemedicine and virtual care because they enable seamless data sharing among concerned healthcare personnel throughout the course of patient care and could allow for better real-time decision-making and diagnosis by the primary doctors,” explained Mr Myat. “I believe these systems will effectively elevate the quality of telemedicine that our hospital offers to the patient.”

While Mr Myat admitted that uptake of telemedicine technology in Myanmar was initially slow, it is now widely adopted by both doctors and patients.

“One of the biggest developments in healthcare in Southeast Asia this year, in my opinion, is the normalisation of telemedicine, even for initial consultations with ‘new’ patients, and virtual care outside clinical settings through virtual platforms,” said Mr Myat.

“With increasing access to fast and affordable internet services in Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, telemedicine was already being considered by the healthcare experts to be the tool for patients in rural and remote areas to receive diagnosis and treatment by qualified general practitioners (GPs) and specialists, even before COVID-19. This unexpected turn of events with the pandemic has helped accelerate the acceptance of telemedicine and virtual care.

“I use the term ‘acceptance’ because I understand that there are doubts on the effectiveness of telemedicine, especially for ‘new’ patients – i.e. patients who are consulting with the doctors for the first time online, whom the doctors have never seen or examined in person before.

“In this virtual setting, there is naturally an increase in the chances for errors and misdiagnosis, since the conventional physical examination component is clearly missing. Hence, from our experience here in Myanmar, many GPs and specialists were hesitant at first to use telemedicine and virtual platforms, especially for the ‘new’ patients.”

The demands of the pandemic on the healthcare system, however, necessitated the increase in usage of telemedicine, as My Myat added: “However, after the past two eventful years of lockdowns, deadly COVID waves and overwhelmed hospital systems across the globe, healthcare practitioners and patients are now starting to realise that the fastest way to receive some kind of medical attention is through telemedicine platforms, and that the patients should only physically come to the hospital when deemed necessary.”

Mr Myat believes that with more healthcare providers in the region adopting telehealth services, hospitals will have to differentiate themselves by being able to provide continuation of care for their patients remotely.

“How do we differentiate ourselves when the essence of telemedicine and healthcare technology lies in the patient data itself?” Mr Myat mused. “There is one factor that I predict will come to the fore in Asia in the coming five years that will differentiate one hospital’s telehealth service from another – the continuation of care for the patients outside clinical settings through advanced wearable devices for remote patient monitoring and digital health.

“As I see it, only hospitals who practice proper medical documentations and have implemented HMIS and EMR well would be able to provide this continuation of care for patients outside clinical settings.”