BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Investing in healthcare will ensure Brunei is prepared for the next pandemic, the second minister of finance and economy said Tuesday.

Speaking at the 2nd ASEAN Digital Public Health Conference, Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the fight against COVID-19 has taken an outsized share of many governments’ coffers, but that countries can leverage their pandemic era-investments to maximise benefits for public health.

“As governments conduct this strategic review, we do so against the macro backdrop that the Asian region is expected to undergo tremendous healthcare change,” he said.

“This will be driven by rapidly ageing populations, rising consumer expectations, technological advancements and limited existing health infrastructure in some countries.

“All these could provide a situation akin to a ‘perfect storm’ to enable governments, payers, providers and consumers to re-imagine healthcare delivery and management,” he said.

The minister added that many countries in ASEAN are looking to new technologies to transform their healthcare systems to provide better, more personalised levels of care to citizens, and highlighted the rapid digitalisation of Brunei’s healthcare sector during the pandemic.

Brunei’s Health Minister Dato Dr Hj Isham speaks during the 2nd ASEAN Digital Public Health Conference on Nov 22, 2022. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

In 2020, Brunei’s health ministry launched the Bruhealth app as a contact tracing tool for COVID-19, but the app has since evolved into an all-round health management app where you can book appointments and video consultations with doctors.

It has also been integrated with BruHIMS, the government’s electronic patient record system, so that an individual’s medical records are all available on the app. 

And just this month, Brunei’s health ministry opened the MOH Intelligence Hub, a centre which monitors the emergence and spread of over 50 infectious diseases in real-time. 

“With more than 10 years of data in hand through BruHIMS, and with the artificial intelligence that we have with EVYD (the BruHealth app developer), we can have a better understanding of public health care in the future,” Health Minister Dato Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said during a panel.

“We are going beyond infectious disease, and heading towards precision public health.”

Precision public health is an emerging discipline that uses extensive data sets and analytic tools to provide better public health interventions to a population. 

Dato Isham added: “We need to prepare for 10 to 20 years down the line. The investment is to ensure whatever we spend now ends up as a saving in 10 to 20 years time.”