Health ‘Lifeline’ For Ranau Rural Community

urrounded by verdant hills set against the majestic backdrop of Mount Kinabalu, Kampung Togop Darat 1 exudes an ethereal beauty.

Near this small village, located 49 kilometres from Ranau town on the west coast of Sabah, flows Sungai Kopuakan, the sound of its rushing water providing a soothing natural soundtrack to the surroundings.

The village has a population of 1,000, the majority of the people being Dusuns, one of the largest ethnic groups in the Land Below the Wind.

Considering its remoteness, access to proper healthcare facilities and uninterrupted Internet service is not a given.

The nearest government health clinics are in Timbua, which is an hour’s drive from Kg Togop Darat 1, and Malinsau, a two-hour drive away.

Fortunately for the villagers, their healthcare woes may be over.

MEASAT Global Bhd, a provider of rural broadband services, and healthcare technology company Mudah HealthTech Sdn Bhd have teamed up to provide digital healthcare services to residents in underserved rural areas across Malaysia, utilising MEASAT’S satellite broadband service CONNECTme NOW hotspots and its rural distribution networks.

(For Internet services, residents can buy CONNECTme NOW prepaid cards at RM10 each.)

Known as Sihat Xpress telehealth service, the initiative involves setting up kiosks where villagers can independently check their oxygen and blood pressure levels and their body temperature, as well as consult a virtual doctor on non-critical medical issues.



MEASAT and Mudah HealthTech’s first Sihat Xpress site is in Kg Togop Darat 1, which was the venue of the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the rural telehealth service between the two companies on May 16.

The MoU signing was witnessed by Sabah Assistant Minister of Community Development and People’s Well-being Datuk Flovia Ng.

Among those present at the event was Kg Togop Darat 1 headwoman Linggasu Barayang, 61, who was all smiles.

Linggasu Barayang

“Healthcare and Internet access are our biggest challenges. The government clinics closest to us take us one to two hours to reach if we use a four-wheel-drive vehicle,” she told Bernama, adding the only route available for them is an unpaved gravel road.

“Furthermore, not all of us here own a vehicle. So if we have to go to a clinic, we’re forced to borrow a vehicle from a neighbour or friend.”

Referring to Sihat Xpress telehealth service, Linggasu said it is much needed as many people in her village have medical conditions requiring the attention of a doctor.

“Many senior citizens here have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and kidney disease. I myself suffer from high blood pressure and obesity. It’s difficult for us to go to the (government) clinic regularly because it’s so far away, so most of us just rely on traditional medicine,” she said.

Kg Togop Darat 1’s Sihat Xpress telehealth kiosk is located in a sundry shop in the village. The facility is equipped with Internet-enabled tablets for audio-visual consultations with doctors and blood pressure devices, oximeters or SPO2 devices for checking the pulse rate and blood oxygen levels, and thermometers for measuring the body temperature.

Although the kiosks are self-service oriented with instructional videos for residents on how to use the devices and connect with doctors online, support staff are also present to provide assistance should any villager encounter technical issues.

The moment of the MEASAT-Mudah Healthtech MoU signing ceremony for rural telehealth services.

MEASAT chief operating officer Yau Chyong Lim said Kg Togop Darat 1’s telehealth kiosk is the first of its kind in Malaysia.

“This initiative is aimed at establishing community-based healthcare to address the healthcare disparities experienced by rural communities and ensure they have access to healthcare services.

“With the availability of the kiosk, Kg Togop Darat 1 folks need not go all the way to the (government) clinic to check their blood pressure levels or body temperature… they can do it themselves at the kiosk and consult a virtual doctor through our telehealth platform,” he said when met at the MoU signing ceremony.



Mudah HealthTech chief business development officer Navinderan Mageswaran said the medical devices available at the kiosk allow residents to conduct less critical health screenings that will enable them to identify and prevent the development of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension. They also help to detect early signs of lung diseases including asthma.

“The tablets (in the kiosk) are connected to (MEASAT’S) CONNECTme NOW Internet service to enable patients to communicate with a doctor from among the 150 doctors supporting the telehealth service.

“Through the digital consultations, patients will be told whether they should go to the nearest clinic to get medication or seek treatment from a doctor,” he said.

Since the opening of the telehealth kiosk in Kg Togop Darat 1, some 463 health screenings have been conducted, averaging about four a day. So far, nine teleconsultation sessions have been conducted at the kiosk.            It was found from the data that 47 percent of the residents showed early signs of hypertension, indicating a high prevalence of pre-hypertension and hypertension among the village population based on their blood pressure readings.

MEASAT-Mudah Healthlink is committed to complete more than 2,000 rural telehealth centers nationwide in the future.

Pointing out that the data will be recorded for reference purposes, Navinderan said they also found some of the kiosk users have other issues that required immediate attention.

“For example, 14 percent of the users were found to have pulse rates outside the normal range, which can result in heart problems, excessive stress and psychological anomalies.

“What concerns us is the high likelihood of cardiovascular diseases occurring among the villagers. Therefore, data from health screenings like this are crucial to enable further assessment for diagnosing the causes and allowing for intervention treatments by the community health authorities,” he added.

The kiosk operates between 9 am and 5 pm from Monday to Friday, except on public holidays.



Linggasu, who uses the Sihat Xpress telehealth service regularly, said her health improved after following the advice of the doctors she consulted online.

“Since I’m also obese, they told me to take care of my diet and refrain from eating sweet and oily food. They also advised me to exercise regularly,” she said.

Her fellow villager Sauni Sabin, 55, a farmer, said the telehealth service has greatly facilitated the villagers in monitoring and managing their health regularly, thus reducing the risk of them developing complications.

“If any of my seven children suddenly fall ill with symptoms like fever or cough, I can monitor their health right away through the kiosk. If it is found to be an infectious disease like COVID-19, we can immediately inform the entire village to take precautionary measures,” he said.

Meanwhile, MEASAT’s Yau said his company and Mudah HealthTech are targeting to provide the digital healthcare service to one million Malaysians especially those living in rural and remote areas with poor Internet and telecommunication services.

He said the one million targeted users include three percent of Malaysia's population who still face issues with Internet access and healthcare services.

Both companies are also committed to digitising clinics with telehealth capabilities, enabling at least 1,000 doctors to support up to 2,000 Sihat Xpress telehealth kiosks that are expected to be rolled out within the next two years.

Yau said they have long recognised that the gap in healthcare services between urban and rural areas is due to the uneven distribution of healthcare facilities.

“Therefore, we are striving to facilitate equitable access to quality healthcare services among the people through government policies including the 12th Malaysia Plan,” he added.


Translated by Rema Nambiar


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