With over one million COVID-19 cases recorded in Malaysia to date, it is no surprise that many hospitals in the country have found themselves inundated with infected cases.
The majority of healthcare workers, too, have been pushed to the brink of having to manage the rising number of patients at their respective medical facilities.
Despite that, private hospitals in Malaysia have accepted the call to assist with the country’s vaccination efforts. Among the hospitals to do so at the start, when the government first called for private healthcare assistance, was Nilai Medical Centre (NMC), as they rolled out the first phase of their vaccination programme on the 16th of March this year.
Naturally, this endeavour to become a vaccination centre means additional work and responsibilities for the staff at NMC. Nonetheless, Ms Coco Wang, the Director of Operations at NMC, told Hospital Management Asia (HMA) that it was worth taking on such a responsibility, as it will help the country combat the virus in the long term.
“Our objective is to serve the community, and naturally, it’s our commitment…to the nation to flatten the curve, as we gear towards herd immunity and ultimately, eradicate the pandemic,” explained Ms Wang.
“For as long as it will take, Nilai Medical Centre will continue to support the government’s initiative for the betterment of our nation and the community.”
To prepare for their new responsibility, NMC set up a task force to specifically oversee their vaccination efforts. The vaccination task force developed policies and informative collaterals, implemented awareness campaigns for internal staff members and the public, organised frequent trainings and workshops coordination for staff involved in the vaccination drive, and also took steps to ensure that the latest updates regarding COVID-19 were provided to all regularly.
In addition, NMC ensured staff members and frontliners, including medical consultants, nurses, housekeeping staff and security services were vaccinated, in preparation to serve the community and help the government in combating the pandemic. The hospital also offers a drive-thru COVID-19 testing service, and boasts a comprehensive FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on their website to help people prepare for their vaccinations at the hospital.
Said Ms Wang: “Setting up a task force (to oversee the vaccination efforts), with a designated project leader, is crucial in ensuring that the entire programme – from logistics to the acquiring of informed consents for vaccines – runs efficiently, is well-managed, and is organised.”
NMC’s vaccination efforts even made the news recently, after a 110-year-old woman went to the hospital to get her jabs – she is believed to be the oldest Malaysian to get vaccinated.
Thanks to the efforts of hospitals like NMC, Malaysia has – as of July 2021 – managed to fully inoculate close to 17% of its 32 million population.
Digitalisation to combat the challenges of COVID-19
Another key initiative that NMC embarked on in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to digitalise certain aspects of their operations and processes.
Apart from launching their teleconsultation service in March this year, the hospital now also offers medication delivery and an online retail pharmacy. E-payment gateways were also introduced at the hospital to minimise physical contact, as well as to provide a more convenient method for patients to make payments.
A mobile application was rolled out to allow patients to better manage their appointments. This led to a reduction of waiting time in the hospital, which helped to minimise the risk of cross-infections. With the use of mobile technologies rapidly expanding within the field of telemedicine, NMC adopted the WhatsApp messaging service as a communication interface dedicated to facilitating correspondence with patients. A mobile phone line with the hospital’s customer service and front office contact numbers was also set up to provide a means for quick teleconsultation and information sharing.
As part of NMC’s digitalisation journey, the hospital increased their internet bandwidth to help them cope with the surge in demand for online meetings, conferences and their telemedicine services. NMC also upgraded their WiFi system to provide better coverage and enhanced network security for both patients and staff.
“Our digitalisation journey has helped to streamline processes and on general health information, as well as the services we have to offer to the community.” Ms Wang added that NMC will continue to push on with their digital transformation, especially given that the COVID-19 pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
“We have started to build the momentum (in our digital journey), as we believe it takes time to educate patients, doctors and the community to actively utilise our services and systems,” said Ms Wang.
“With COVID-19 cases increasing, we are looking to embark stronger on telehealth and virtual care, with one objective in mind: to ensure we continue to provide the best care and experience to our patients and customers.”
The new normal for private hospitals
The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the way medical facilities and hospitals are operating, and its impact on the healthcare industry will continue to be felt for years to come. Private hospitals like NMC, too, have begun to adapt to the demands arising from the pandemic. But what exactly will the ‘new normal’ look like?
This is one of the many COVID-19-related topics that will be discussed at this year’s Hospital Management Asia (HMA) conference, which will be held online over three days, from the 14th to 16th of September.
Ms Wang recounted how she was able to pick up useful tips on dealing with the pandemic from having attended last year’s digital HMA conference, as she said: “The conference covered a wide range of topics from worldwide hospitals on their experience battling COVID-19. The subjects discussed included infection control, flexible management and operation, technology and cybersecurity, as well as patient experience and the retention of healthcare workers.
“It was very useful, as I believe hospitals also need to check-in (on the latest in the healthcare industry) when handling day-to-day operations, especially during this pandemic.”
With the theme, ‘Reimagining healthcare in the new normal’, this year’s HMA conference is set to feature thought leadership expertise and insights from over the world, as it explores how the healthcare industry can prepare itself for the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to register for the conference now.