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A Malaysian doctor's mission to promote women's health through mobile apps: interview

AvantiKumar | Sept. 29, 2015
In an interview with Computerworld, Dr A Baskaran, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist of Manipal Hospitals Klang, Malaysia, speaks of his passion to promote women's health and wellbeing through his work as a mobile app developer.

Woman's Health Diary home page screenshot

Screenshot - Woman's Health Diary home page

As you are a practising obstetrician and gynaecologist, how did you train yourself as a mobile apps developer? And how are your mobile apps doing out in the market?

After conceptualization of an app, based on what I perceive to be an important aspect of women's health, I worked with my I.T. partner, Agmo Studio to develop the app. I will come up with the design and they make it into a reality. Women's Health Diary took a long time as it consists of eight different apps combined to one. Whereas My Ovulation Calculator took about 3 months, involving the process of conceptualisation, review with the IT partner, feedback and translation to multiple languages.

Currently, we have are about 5,000 to 8,000 downloads a day in both Google Play and Apple Store combined. At this moment we have about 600,000 active users from the 4,000,000 downloaded in Google Play and Apple Store so far.

For Malaysia specific, some of the more popular apps are My Ovulation Calculator and My Menstrual Diary which have in total about 40,000 downloads in Malaysia.

Worldwide, our top app is My Menstrual Diary. In Android it has been downloaded over a million times. In Apple it has been downloaded 700,000 times. And the active users are about 250,000 to 300,000 in both the stores worldwide.
Some of our apps are ranked top 100 in the Medical Category in both the stores in many countries. For example, My Ovulation Calculator on August 30, 2015 is in the top 100 medical app in 96 out of the 100 countries listed in the Medical Category in Google Play.

Other popular apps are My Menstrual Diary, My Pregnancy Calculator and Weight Calorie Watch. They are also ranked highly in a good number of countries. From time to time we get requests to include our apps in other stores. For example, Amazon and Xiaomi.

All the apps are available free for download at Google Play or Apple Store except for one.

And how have these apps helped your patients and improved women's healthcare?

I don't usually promote my apps to my patients, in general. But surprisingly they have taken off in a viral fashion as the apps are available worldwide. If they are useful, women tend to download and promote them and many have given good feedback to us. Even companies such as Google and Apple are starting to promote those applications.

I now have very well informed patients who can take out their menstrual chart on their smartphones and say "this is my time, this is my period".  

Are you also working together with Manipal Hospitals Klang promoting and developing mobile health apps?

I am in discussions with Manipal Hospitals Klang to organise a conference on mobile health apps for IT personnel, IT companies, and healthcare professionals. We hope to involve the Multimedia Corporation as well. My focus is currently only on women's health and that is because I am an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. But based on how helpful and popular the apps have been, it would be good for other physicians and specialists to come together and explore how we can develop some more mobile apps to help others be educated and take control to improve their health.

This may probably happen after Manipal Hospitals moves from its current 70-bed hospital to the new building with 220-bed scheduled in the next few months. I have organised a conference many years ago on IT and medicine and I am confident of the relevance and benefits of such meeting of minds which Manipal Hospitals Klang can initiate.

How do you see the trend of using health apps in improving medical services at the hospitals or other healthcare facilities in Malaysia? (E.g. reducing visits to hospitals, reducing visiting time at hospital etc.)

With the help of smartphones, mobile health apps are excellent for preventive healthcare. It is a medium for health education and action. It can be an instrument to help in the early detection of ailments. I think mobile health apps are going to take off very well in the future.

A patient may eventually have direct link to the hospital via an app where he/she can be able to update her appointments and prescription. Furthermore, they can make it possible for doctors to monitor a patient's health while he/she is at home and hence may reduce the number of visits to the hospital and hospital admissions. Patients can actively be involved in making the necessary changes to improve their health.


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