Health Tech

Digitizing Cambodia’s Health Sector

Cambodia’s health sector is evolving thanks in part to improved human resources and the emergence of HealthTech. Kiripost speaks to medical experts who are using technology in the form of electronic medical records to improve services nationwide
Computer screens display an EMR system developed by Udaya Technology. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Computer screens display an EMR system developed by Udaya Technology. Kiripost/Siv Channa

When Dr. Ung Visoth Mony first opened a kids’ clinic in 2009, he meant it to be a family-run clinic with him being founder-cum-pediatrician. But, over time, the seasoned pediatrician has unwittingly become an entrepreneur in the health sector.

That was when Dr. Mony realized he needed a system for the business.

“Back then [in 2009], I already used a computer but it was not a system. I just used it to record the names of the patients,” Dr. Mony, Founder of MONY Kid Clinic, told Kiripost in a recent interview.

“When our clinic grew bigger, I started using a system for patients’ medical records. Medical records are really important for the treatment of patients,” he added.

Dr. Ung Visoth Mony, pediatrician and founder of MONY Kid Clinic. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Dr. Ung Visoth Mony, pediatrician and founder of MONY Kid Clinic. Kiripost/Siv Channa

At Metro Polyclinic, urologist and founder, Saut Phearum, echoed the usefulness of the electronic medical records (EMR) system, saying it enables doctors and nurses to do their job better, faster, and to a higher standard.

The system, according to Phearum, has also helped build trust among patients.

“At my clinic, as we focus on high-end clients, I think many of them used to see a doctor overseas and see the doctors there using a modern system. So, when our clinic here in Cambodia also uses such a system, they feel more confident in local healthcare,” said Dr. Phearum.

Mony Kid Clinic and Metro Polyclinic use an EMR system developed and customized by Udaya Technology – a locally-owned tech company that provides tech and industrial automation solutions in Cambodia.

Keo Reasmey, UDAYA Technology Managing Director, at Cambodia Tech Expo 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Keo Reasmey, UDAYA Technology Managing Director, at Cambodia Tech Expo 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

In a recent interview with Kiripost, Managing Director Keo Reasmey recountedUdaya Technology’s journey in helping digitalize Cambodia’s healthcare sector, and how challenging it was for his software engineers to build a complicated EMR system.

In 2010, Reasmey recalled the country lacked both users and developers of the EMR system. On the user side, doctors and nurses had very little interest in technology, let alone learning to use them. Things about patients were recorded in traditional paper forms.

Another challenge, according to Reasmey, was about software engineers or system developers – some call them. Their knowledge was limited and effective coding or programming work management was lacking, among other issues.

“Developing an EMR system is a complicated task. We must know the functions, workflows, and workloads of doctors and nurses before we can build such a complex software system as EMR,” Reasmey said.

However, more than a decade later, Reasmey said the EMR system has progressed remarkably. There are more software engineers now and more systems have been developed with higher quality. System customization and support have also improved a lot.

On the user side, doctors and nurses who graduate from 2020 onwards are more computer savvy and more capable of using computer software or systems.

“On the EMR system, if we compare the current state with that in 2010, I can say it has become between 500 and 600 percent better than it was before,” he said. “The EMR sector has grown very fast.”

“I remember over 10 years ago we needed two to three years’ time to install and implement an EMR system. It took a long, long time,” he added. “But, now, to install an EMR system and train people to use it takes just three to six months. It’s smooth.”

After years of effort and investment, the EMR has significantly transformed how hospitals and clinics operate in the country.

Dr. Saut Phearum, Urologist-cum-founder of Metro Polyclinic. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Dr. Saut Phearum, Urologist-cum-founder of Metro Polyclinic. Kiripost/Siv Channa

And, according to doctors and owners of clinics interviewed, the advantages of shifting from paper-based to electronic medical records are enormous.

Dr. Phearum at the Metro Polyclinic said the digital system has made the work of doctors and nurses speedier, easier, and more effective.

“With the system, long working processes become shorter. Things that used to take a longer time to do now take less time,” he said.

Despite no available data on the percentage of hospitals or clinics digitizing medical records in Cambodia, Dr. Phearum believes there are many already turning to EMR and he urged young medical professionals to continue to upgrade the sector by adopting more technologies.

Another advantage of the EMR system, according to Dr. Mony, is a psychological advantage.

“With EMR, we know the patient’s name, we know their medical records very well. This makes patients or their parents happy and have trust in our clinic,” said Dr. Mony.

The EMR system also assists healthcare facilities to manage their stock of medical supplies and medicines.

“With the system, we know clearly what’s left in the stock, what’s been sold. We know how much money we earn from the sale of medicines and medical supplies and so on,” he added.

“The system also helps us know ahead of trends regarding peak or low season for specific diseases so that we can prepare our clinic for the medical needs.”

Business-wise, the system also helps with stock control and management. as well as income and expenses, Dr. Mony said.

For treatment, it’s easier for doctors to treat a patient as, via the system, they have access to their medical records.

“A year ago, a patient visited the clinic and it was recorded that they had an allergy to Ampicillin, so on their second visit, we knew that problem and we could give them an alternative medicine,” Dr. Mony said.

“In the past, when the technology was not yet available, it was OK to use papers, but now if you are in this medical business and you still use paper for medical records, you can’t run a business.”

In Cambodia, the Health Tech roadmap 2022 was recently rolled out by the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology & Innovation (MISTI).

The roadmap said the country will be successful if human resources, including health professionals, technology developers, and experienced researchers, are available to support the adoption, application, and evaluation of the technologies identified and prioritized.

To support the process of development in the health sector, as aided by health technology, there must be an investment in the physical infrastructure. This will support the ability to undertake higher quality research due to the availability of better data, the roadmap added.

For Udaya Technology, according to Reasmey, more needs to be done to push EMR to the next level.

He said the company is already successful in building an EMR system that communicates with Laboratory Information System (LIS), and next, the company is focusing its R&D on further upgrading the EMR system so it can communicate with DICOM or the Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine. [Partnership Content]