6 things I learnts at the Malaysian Telemedicine Conference

I had the honour to be a panellist at the mobile health (mHealth) symposium at the 2016 Malaysian Telemedicine Conference held on 16 – 17 Aug at Sunway Medical Centre. It was energising to talk and interact with many different visionaries and stakeholders, all of whom are excited to see telemedicine come to life in delivering better healthcare at lower costs.

Here are a couple of key insights I took home from the conference:

On mHealth

1. mHealth has been estimated to be a huge market, however it has fallen short of its revenue potential despite the large number of health apps and users in the market. This is a sign that mHealth is highly commoditised and consumer driven. People are only willing to pay a few dollars, AT MOST, for a mobile app.

2. In order for mHealth to fulfil its promise, solution providers need to move up the value chain – away from wellness and into chronic disease management. Create a full service for patients by establishing a healthcare ecosystem, rather than being ‘just an app’. This means bringing health professionals, patients and vendors together. Such a service does not current exist in many Asia-Pacific countries, including Malaysian.

3. In this way, you’ll be able to price your solution at a significant higher level. For example in Australia, market research has shown that consumers are willing to pay up to $30 per month for chronic disease management programs delivered via mobile devices.

4. At the same time, you need to pick your target audience carefully: Identify a ready target population that will accept education and chronic care.


On healthcare in Malaysia

1. One key challenge in telemedicine in Malaysia is the lack of the payor. Who / Where are they? Public healthcare is free, and private companies generally don’t pay for their employees. This is unlike in the US where there is reimbursement from insurance companies. Even in Singapore, insurers are open to paying to keep their populations healthy

2. There are great differences in IT and electronic medical record (EMR) adoption in Malaysian hospitals. For example, in the KL area almost all hospitals are fully electronic. While in Penang, most of it is still based on pen-and-paper records. Such that a team of doctors had to develop their own EMR system – how admirable! Speculation is that this is due to politics (Penang is a solid opposition state).


On Internet of things for health in Malaysia

There was a heated debate over whether there should be more or less regulation around medical devices in Malaysian. Both sides put forth strong arguments, and the likely answer will be somewhere in the middle ground. Keeping the assessment rigorous while ensuring the entire process runs faster may be a near-term answer.

Support heavier regulation

  • Malaysian is not a large enough a market to sell your devices in – especially when you think in terms of the volume of devices you need to sell in order to recoup your costs of R&D. You need to think global. Regulation and certifications lend greater credibility to your product – by enhancing the global perception of products made in Malaysian. This is an enabler to sell your products overseas.
  • Patient safety should always be top priority.

Support lighter regulation

  • Regulation impedes innovation. It should not be done for the sake of doing it. There is a role of regulation to play, but perhaps later in the industry cycle.


It was my first time in Sunway, and I greatly appreciated the warm Malaysian hospitality shown by my hosts. Fun fact:  Sopping is the number 1 past-time for Malaysians Рthey just love their huge megamalls!

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