Fintech, or financial technology, can and should be used to increase cancer screening in the Malaysian population. Fintech is a powerful platform that can transform our lives in many ways, even save lives by increasing the prevalence of cancer screenings.

In Malaysia, the government has been very proactive and forward-thinking when it comes to pushing for the adoption, adaptation, and expansion of fintech products among Malaysians. The ePenjana cashless payment initiative, issued by the government of Malaysia, is just one example of the way the government has expedited the adoption of digital wallets among Malaysians. The cashless initiative benefited up to 15 million Malaysians who are now using a multitude of e-wallet platforms.

In addition to making payments easier for a larger segment of the population, digital wallet platforms act as a conduit between the government and its citizens. Qualified Malaysians are able to download stimulus money by entering their unique national identity card into their smartphones. This eliminates the need for Malaysians to queue in government offices or crowded post offices to receive benefits and stimulus packages from the government, making this process faster and simpler for both the government and Malaysians.

This success is an example of how fintech platforms have an extremely wide outreach among Malaysians, begging the question, how it can be adapted to be used in the healthcare sector to increase cancer screenings? Through fintech platforms, the government of Malaysia can disburse cancer screening vouchers/credits quickly and effectively to increase the amount of cancer screenings performed, as well as to help cover the personal costs incurred for such procedures.

More specifically, colon cancer screenings are extremely important for the Malaysian population as it is the second leading cause of death for those with cancer in Malaysia and is most common among males. Over 3500 Malaysians were diagnosed with colon cancer in 2018 alone, with most diagnosed in the later stage of the cancer. Roughly 64% of Malaysians with colon cancer were diagnosed during stages III and IV. In a recent survey, only 3% of Malaysians have gone through colon cancer screening and it was identified as a direct barrier in reducing colon cancer mortality. Furthermore, colon cancer treatments are very costly and can range from RM13000 for stage I, up to RM30000 for stage IV. The 5-year survival rate of Malaysians with colon cancer recently dropped precipitously from 79% in stage I to 19% in stage IV. It is abundantly clear that colon cancer screening is important not only to save lives but to reduce the burden of healthcare costs for both the patients and the public healthcare system.

One tool that is effective and cost-efficient for colon cancer screening is the Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), which has been shown to reduce colon cancer mortality by up to 16%. This screening method is quite affordable, costing only between RM20 to RM30. The government of Malaysia, or any other interested state governments and non-governmental bodies, could use fintech platforms to distribute the RM20 to RM30 needed for the cancer screenings. Qualified Malaysians could download the vouchers/credits and pay for colon cancer screenings in public and private healthcare settings. Through this system, colon cancer screenings could be made available to the general population, and as a result, colon cancer would be identified at an earlier stage. This will not only save lives but also reduce healthcare costs.

In addition, these same fintech platforms that house e-wallets could be further utilized to raise awareness about colon cancer and the importance of colon cancer screening, while also being used for the disbursement of vouchers and credits. In this way, Malaysians who download the vouchers and credits could then become a positive example to their friends and family members to take part in colon cancer screenings.

As demonstrated, the fintech platform can be a very powerful tool to prompt and encourage the behavioral change that is needed to increase cancer screenings among the general population. The impact it can have should not stop at colon cancer screenings but be expanded to increase the prevalence of breast cancer and prostate cancer screenings, among others. Fintech, as the latest innovation in financial technology, should be considered as a highly powerful solution in our fight against cancer.

Author: Mohd. Nasir bin Mohd. Ismail, Ph.D., ACCESS Health International consultant in Malaysia

Dr. Ismail received his Ph.D. in social and behavioral sciences from Johns Hopkins University, a master’s degree in energy and mineral engineering, and a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Pennsylvania State University. He has worked in the healthcare system in the United States, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates. To contact him or to inquire about Fintech for Health programs, please write to [email protected]