KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) is considering expanding the use of its MySejahtera app beyond tracking Covid-19 to monitor chronic diseases, including cancer.
MOH’s disease control division senior assistant director Dr Arunah Chandran said cancer notification should be made mandatory by law. She added that meanwhile, the ministry is exploring the possibility of notifying cancer via systems with a large uptake like the MySejahtera app that reportedly has about 24.5 million users, equivalent to nearly 75 per cent of the country’s population.
“Currently, MOH is also looking into how we can expand MySejahtera itself because of the large uptake of (the app) in the population to tackle not just cancer, but also NCDs as a whole, starting from not just service provision but also looking into research — how we can start doing population-based screening through, for example, [with] MySejahtera, instead of waiting for an every four-year population-based NCD study that we’re currently doing.
“So yes, we’re definitely looking into how to utilise the current MySejahtera app to expand that beyond Covid-19,” Dr Arunah said at Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy’s “Improving Access To Cancer Treatment And Care” virtual conference last Saturday.
However, she said the entire data entry process required to keep track of cancer cases and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) should not just be mandated by law, but feasible for health care providers.
“I think mandatory cancer notification is something that can easily be done in this current climate that doesn’t require expensive financing, but when we think about mandatory cancer notification, we must also make it feasible and easy for health care providers to make that notification.
“If we are going to set up a system that will take time for them to even do the notification then it becomes a little bit more difficult. So, perhaps one way is to think about how we can make those notifications easier for health care providers, not just mandate it by law,” Dr Arunah said.
Currently, the government releases statistics on cancer cases through the National Cancer Registry Report published every four years. The latest available registry is for 2012 to 2016.
“I think the current process, the notification, the cleaning of the data, and the reporting takes time because of the way the whole registry was set up. One of the previous solutions that have been suggested is for us to, perhaps, publish interim data that is available before we go through the whole cleaning process and I think that would definitely help.
“But I think it’s more of a systemic issue because of the way we’ve set up the registry, rather than, you know, blaming the registry itself for having a delay in the process. So, I think it’s something that can be done and I think it’s something that we’re currently working on.
“I have not personally worked with the cancer patient registry before but having worked with other entity registries, I can tell you that there are certain processes that can definitely be shortened while we wait for verified published results. We can definitely work on releasing interim information to the general public and then work on verifying those,” Dr Arunah said.
Yesterday, many Malaysians complained about receiving spam emails from MySejahtera’s helpdesk and spam one-time password SMSes. MOH later maintained that MySejahtera’s database was not hacked, saying that spam emails and SMSes were sent using exploits of the API.
CodeBlue also reported yesterday complaints from four Malaysians vaccinated with AstraZeneca about discrepancies with the vaccine manufacturer name between their digital Covid-19 vaccination certificates on MySejahtera and the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency’s (NPRA) lot release certificates, based on the lot number of the vaccines.
After CodeBlue’s report, similar complaints emerged on Twitter from multiple people about vaccine manufacturer details listed on their digital vaccination certificates that did not match NPRA’s batch approval certification, including an email a complainant sent to CodeBlue. One even complained on Twitter about his MySejahtera vaccination certificate listing an incorrect vaccine with a “random batch number” that was not his.
MySejahtera is currently used to track users’ risk status for Covid-19, such as identifying if one is positive for the infectious disease or is a patient under investigation, to check-in at public premises, and to hold one’s Covid-19 vaccination certificate. The app contains other personal data like one’s full name, identity card number, date of birth, and phone number or email address.
The newly released “Cancer Care: Challenges, Gaps And Opportunities In Malaysia” White Paper issued by Galen also called for a replication of Covid-19 data collection for cancer to coordinate coherent responses that could reduce the burden of the disease in the country.
The think tank suggested that reporting of new cancer cases should be made mandatory across all health care settings, including non-MOH facilities such as hospitals under the Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Defence, and the private sector to increase representation in the cancer registry to track incidence and survival outcomes.
The MOH currently presents data on Covid-19 cases, tests, deaths, hospitalisation, ventilation, intensive care unit (ICU) utilisation rates, positive rates, and vaccination in live graphics, broken down on the state level and by time period on the CovidNow website.
The site also features the vaccination status, gender, age group, and nationality of Covid-19 cases and fatalities. Separately, MOH releases raw data on the epidemic on GitHub.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin previously revealed in a written parliamentary response that the MySejahtera app had identified 53 per cent of total Covid-19 cases through contact tracing, as of October 7. Another 7 per cent of cases were identified via the app’s self-assessment tool.
The country’s total confirmed Covid-19 infections stood at 2.3 million cases, as of October 7, which suggests that about 1.2 million cases and 161,960 cases had been identified through MySejahtera’s contact tracing and self-assessment features, respectively.
The federal government previously announced an allocation of RM70 million for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme’s (PICK) data integration and appointment system, which included the MySejahtera app.
Correction note: The second paragraph of this story was corrected to state that Dr Arunah Chandran believes cancer notification should be made mandatory by law, not that MOH is currently working on such efforts as earlier report.