KUALA LUMPUR: The National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) that was launched under the National Economic Recovery Plan (PENJANA) initiative plays an important role in propagating the use of emerging technology particularly in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of the NTIS key target sectors is medical and healthcare technology where DoctorOnCall, Malaysia's first and largest digital health platform was approved to be part of NTIS, to accelerate the development of healthcare related innovation, looking towards creating a smooth regulatory pathway.
Together with NTIS, DoctorOnCall's DOCPod project aims to expand access to patients, particularly those with chronic illnesses, in rural areas through mobile clinics placed in the rural communities.
The project received a RM500,000 grant funded under NTIS via the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC) to facilitate DOCPod's prototype design and testing activities.
NTIS is led by MOSTI and supported by its secretariat which will take on the coordination and implementation of key projects. The secretariat consists of various government agencies involved in the country's innovation ecosystem, including MaGIC as the Lead Secretariat and acts as a central depository for ideas, solutions and intellectual property; Malaysia's National Applied Research and Development Centre (Mimos) and Technology Park Malaysia (TPM), which identify new solutions, run technology audits and facilitate certification processing; Futurise, which takes on the regulatory components of the sandbox; and the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC), the main funding partner for the sandbox.
"NTIS is an important component to developing an innovation driven economy, and more so given the impact of Covid-19. Through the Sandbox, we believe the use of advanced technology in key sectors such as medical technology can bring about meaningful social and economic impact," said MaGIC's acting chief executive officer, Amiruddin Abdul Shukor.
"We are encouraged by DocOnCall's solutions in increasing our rakyat's accessibility to healthcare and this can be expedited with the government's intervention. The pandemic has presented us with the opportunity to accelerate and we must embrace that change to vault the country towards becoming an innovation driven economy. NTIS will endeavour to help start-ups such as DocOnCall to get to market faster through targeted support, providing a conducive regulatory environment and funding to leap to greater heights," said Amiruddin.
"We believe the regulations, once implemented, should allow for the secure operations of Digital Health players in addition to patient safety, ultimately creating a vibrant economic driver for our nation and a long-term benefit for patients in Malaysia. Currently, no legislation is made available that directly governs the digital health industry. Through NTIS, the government allows us to test our products and business models in a safe, responsible manner. The platform provides innovators like us to flourish with opportunities to scale," said DoctorOnCall's managing director and co-founder, Maran Virumandi.
Health diagnostics for people in rural areas
DOCPod, an innovative mobile clinic that performs health diagnostics for people in rural areas living away from public health facilities, is a mobile medical clinic that can be located within a community, where patients with chronic diseases, can enter to check amongst others, their vitals, body temperature, blood pressure and blood sugar readings.
Maran explained that "When you are living in rural towns and villages, it is extremely challenging to seek medical attention. There might not be any clinics and hospitals within the vicinity. So, we took up the challenge to 'uber-ise' healthcare by building the DOCpod to solve the problem. We plan to roll out the DOCPod in rural and suburban areas nationwide in the second half of 2021. We are currently upgrading it with sanitisation, ventilation, and filtration elements."
To date, DoctorOnCall saw a rough 15 million users visiting its site in 2020. The platform's monthly average user has grown from 600,000 in January 2020 to 2.5 million in January 2021. For the pilot in Langkawi, the DOCPod has managed to assist thousands of patients, seeking the facility to manage their health conditions.