Rapid growth of telehealth services seen in Malaysia

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Telehealth adoption has seen a rise in Malaysia in recent years, partly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, a Sage Journals study supported by Malaysian telehealth provider DOC2US in collaboration with Universiti Malaya and Taylor’s University reveals.

The three-year study involved 835,826 telehealth records from 411 pharmacies nationwide, revealing a mostly middle-age range – mean age of 50 ± 21 years – with a predominantly female user base (58.7% female compared to 41.3% male). The majority of telehealth services involve assisted consultations with e-prescriptions (88.8 percent), owing to convenience, followed by direct consultations (11.2 percent).

The lower uptake of direct consultation services is attributed to potential factors that include a preference for face-to-face consultations and guidelines that restrict treatments and medications that may be prescribed electronically.

Notably, a higher proportion of women opted for e-prescriptions via assisted consultation services compared to direct consultation services. However, a lack of information remains regarding the satisfaction and preferences of female users in Malaysia when it comes to using telehealth services.

Assisted consultation services with e-prescriptions were primarily used for cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, arrhythmias, and atherosclerosis, constituting 41.7 percent of all diagnoses.

This was followed by diabetes mellitus and dyslipidaemia, accounting for 17.5 percent and 11.6 percent of all diagnoses, respectively. Similarly, cardiovascular diseases accounted for 43.0 percent of all diagnoses for direct consultations, followed by diabetes and dyslipidaemia at 18.5 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively.

While e-prescriptions fill a significant gap in the management of chronic conditions, the study authors call for a collaborative approach between all healthcare professionals, including physicians and community pharmacists, to assist patients in transitioning to digital health services. 

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