In an exclusive interview, Khmer Times sits down with Bin Socheat, co-founder and operations advisor to First Womentech Asia (FWTA). Socheat details how the Cambodian start-up company created “Peth Yoeung”, the Kingdom’s first cloud-based hospital operating system and healthcare platform and how it will revolutionise the country’s medical system.
KT: Tell us about “Peth Yoeung”. What are its functions?
Socheat: Peth Yoeung is a cloud-based system for controlling hospital operations, replacing the traditional system which relies heavily on manual work and printed or written documents. It covers a range of functions, including patient registration, medical history management, stock inventory, staff control and so on. It will also bring patients closer to medical facilities through digitalisation. The Peth Yoeung system includes e-Health Yoeung, a smartphone application designed to link patients with physicians and hospitals, and vice versa.
KT: What inspired you and your team to create this system? What problems do you plan to solve with Peth Yoeung?
Socheat: The idea came to me and my wife years ago. We noticed the hardship faced by the Cambodian people seeking health services as well as the challenges faced by hospital owners. While the people have been going through a hard time setting up appointments with their doctors and trying to understand prescriptions, hospital administration staff have been digging through piles of files to find their patients’ medical records. Keeping copies of documents is a tough task for both patients and hospitals.
The traditional way of running a hospital wastes a lot of time and money. The old system also makes people lose their trust in local medical service providers, prompting them to seek services abroad – an option which is both expensive and disadvantageous for the national economy.
We are also trying to promote gender equality in Cambodia. We observed that when someone in the family has a severe or chronic disease, the female members are usually the ones who bear the responsibilities of attending to the ill.
For example, it is usually the daughter who stops going to school to take care of her ill mother or father. In addition, most of our clients and mobile app users are women who are either owners of hospitals or the ones responsible for the wellbeing of their families.
KT: How did you and your team go about developing the system?
Socheat: Obviously, it was not a walk in the park, considering that we had to do everything from scratch. We started conducting field studies in 2013 and then in 2015, we formed a team to do the coding and designed a business plan. We did not use a template or any model created by foreign developers; we built everything ourselves.
Marketing took a while. It was also very difficult to recruit local staff who were qualified enough to work with us. We launched the system for the first-ever digitalised hospital operations in 2017. Our clients always find it difficult to adjust to the new system so we have to teach them everything until they can handle it on their own.
Over the past three years, we have upgraded the system regularly in response to feedback from our clients. Currently, both small clinics and big hospitals are using our system.
KT: How many hospitals are using your system right now? Do you have any plans of expanding your market in the future?
Socheat: Currently, more than 130 private hospitals all over the county, as well as three public hospitals – Preah Ang Duong Hospital, Preah Kossamak Hospital and the National Pediatric Hospital – use our system.
We have been planning to expand to private hospitals and health centres in the provinces, starting with Kampong Thom, Kampot, Siem Reap and Kampong Cham. It can take between one to three months for a hospital to be able to fully adopt and utilise our system, after which we continue to provide them with technical support.
Our start-up is also looking to enter the international market, through partnerships with hospitals in the Philippines and Hong Kong, after being fully operational in Cambodia.
KT: What new features do you wish to integrate into your system in the future?
Socheat: Many new features must be introduced to catch up with the world, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic which has been changing the way people behave. Recently, we have introduced a new feature at Preah Ang Duong Hospital which allows patients to directly set an appointment with their doctor and thus avoid crowding in the lobby.
We are assessing how we can bring the “teleconsultation” feature so doctors can track the condition of their patients and the patients can easily consult with their doctors. We are also working on the “payment” feature to allow users to pay for their medical services via the smartphone app. All of these will contribute to the containment of the coronavirus.