Health engineering is the integration of engineering knowledge into health practices, including the detection, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of disease, and the preservation and improvement of health and physical and mental well-being, using the services provided by Allied Physicians and Health Professionals.
Creating and integrating a collaborative engineering tool in healthcare has a long history of success. Recent changes in industrialization and the expansion of global digitalization are increasing the demand for integration and transformation of more particular knowledge in all sectors, including healthcare.
In an exclusive interview with Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia, Associate Professor Kalaivani Chellappan, PhD, PTech of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) shared in-depth insight into the needs and future healthcare engineering in Malaysia.
Professor Kalaivani Chellappan believes that health engineering is one of the most important societal transformations, especially in the context of the pandemic and the years to come. If engineering and health sciences are properly integrated, she believes, they can transfer, translate and transform more effective and efficient solutions for nations around the world.
Contribution of Engineering to the Malaysian Healthcare System
Professor Kalaivani Chellappan distinguished between health technology and health engineering. Health Technology, also known as Healthtech, is the application of developed technologies to improve all aspects of the healthcare system while Health Engineering has a dominant expertise in the development and delivery of health technology management programs and contributes significantly to the development and review of hospital systems. broad strategic policy.
“Health technology is just the front, not the backbone. The backbone is health engineering. Biomedical engineering can’t build the backbone because it’s looking for a application of engineering problem-solving principles and techniques to biology and medicine“, she said emphatically.
Technology solutions help healthcare professionals improve performance, promote communication between systems and manage costs. As organizational demands increase, healthcare technology can speed up operations, automate tasks, and improve workflows.
Health systems engineers are an essential part of the engine that will propel health care forward. They reduce costs by streamlining processes, improving patient care and creating efficiencies. They achieve this in part by testing and examining many relevant variables – whereas most people who want to improve healthcare processes only focus on a few specific applications that are unable to bring about holistic change.
Additionally, most healthcare organizations have data that could be used to improve their business procedures and practices, but they may lack the tools and/or expertise to extract insights from that data.
On the other hand, new technologies, such as blockchain, cloud computing and artificial intelligence tools based on machine learning and deep learning techniques, can help healthcare organizations discover models in huge amounts of data while securing the management of a more user-friendly environment. service.
Professor Kalaivani Chellappan applauds engineers – whom she considers the unsung heroes of global health. During the crisis, engineers have made huge contributions, from delivering oxygen to creating mobile apps, data dashboards, and even building facilities for COVID-19 patients.
What awaits us in health engineering
The use of artificial intelligence technology in the healthcare industry has undeniably transformed clinical practice. There is great hope that AI applications will bring significant improvements in all areas of health. At some point, technology is expected to improve patient care while reducing costs.
AI has the potential to improve access and quality of care, which was previously hampered by inadequate infrastructure and skills shortages. “The pandemic raises awareness of how AI could help improve the efficiency and reliability of the healthcare industry.”
Contrary to popular belief, AI-based solutions will not replace humans in healthcare, as these are responsible applications that will always require a combination of data science and medical knowledge. Therefore, it is better to embed a policy in the health system to protect against possible future challenges.
Professor Kalaivani Chellappan recognizes that healthcare needs streamlined regulations and policies to enable start-up founders to be leaders in the digital healthcare space.
Healthcare technology is moving in the right direction, from transferring data between institutions to connecting doctors and patients from opposite ends of the globe through online platforms. Digital transformation has taken place, so technology adoption is no longer an option in most industries, and healthcare is not immune to this digital transformation.
Precision and personalized medicine, on-demand access to advanced telehealth, and streamlined clinical operations are all potential outcomes of a digital transformation of healthcare. However, the healthcare industry faces specific challenges to fully realize the benefits of digital transformation.
Point of view: A woman’s passion
From an early age, Prof. Kalaivani Chellappan wanted to be a doctor because of the suffering she witnessed. At first, his two brothers died of heart disease. Later, when she was 18, she lost her grandfather and a few years later, at the age of 21, she experienced the death of her father.
But she wanted to do more than treat people — she’s passionate about bringing about change in the healthcare system. “These are all incidents that keep triggering me. I had no idea what healthcare engineering was then, but all I knew was that I wanted to make the change.
Professor Kalaivani Chellappan details her journey and experiences in becoming so passionate about healthcare engineering.
Everyone thought she was crazy at the time because she left the best company in Malaysia without a job, for a job as a teacher. “I love teaching. I even joined different centers during the holidays and taught that way until I finally joined UKM!
In 1993, she was introduced to AI and developed a taste and a certain passion for IT. The move from biomedical engineering to health engineering was indeed, and most interestingly, a huge change and she is grateful for the freedom the UKM gave her to set up her research.
When asked about her plans to replace teachers and doctors with AI, she emphatically replied, “Teachers and doctors could never be replaced.”
The ability, willingness and opportunity to share knowledge and best practices are essential to the holistic, comprehensive and equitable development of this industry. The pandemic, as devastating as it has been, has enabled and fostered global interaction. This gave him the chance to offer his insights on India and Indonesia as well as a few other countries.
She is fully aware that this is not an easy path and that the next installment of experts needs as much help and support as possible. From her long and distinguished career, she feels that one of the biggest challenges is guiding the younger generation in her industry and sharing her wisdom on how to bring about change in the healthcare industry.
Specifically, for her, it’s gender disparity. She has watched people being rejected simply because of their gender, even though their ideas are good and could help the economy. She understands that this is not just happening in Malaysia, but also in other countries.
“I can be a beginner, change careers halfway or even have a good experience – people, and especially women, should be able to pursue what they are passionate about at any time. Joining the government at 41, dropping this I had, was a big decision,” she recalls.
She wants to facilitate the path of others, guide them and point out the pitfalls. “What is most important to me is the journey and what I will leave to our next generation. I want me to leave something behind, my legacy! Professor Kalaivani Chellappan ends with passion.