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Malaysia: MSC developer denies copyright violation

Telehealth applications developer Medical Online Sdn Bhd has refuted allegations that it “hijacked” intellectual property and did not contribute enough original work of its own for the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project.

Telehealth applications developer Medical Online Sdn Bhd has refuted allegations that it “hijacked” intellectual property and did not contribute enough original work of its own for the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project, after a newspaper raised those concerns about the company recently.

KUALA LUMPUR (In.Tech)--Medical Online was accused of blatantly disregarding intellectual property rights when a consortium led by its parent company, Cybercode Sdn Bhd, successfully bid for the MSC’s Telehealth flagship application – with a proposal said to have closely resembled that of another bidder.

Financial weekly The Edge reported that a former manager involved in a failed bid for the project claimed that his consortium’s proposal was made available to other bidders, including Cyber-code, after it had been submitted.

The Malaysian government first made a call for concept request for proposals (CRFP) for several of the MSC’s flagship applications in 1997.

The anonymous former manager was also quoted as saying that there was “absolutely no respect for intellectual property in this country,” in an apparent reference to Cybercode’s alleged wrongdoing.

The newspaper also questioned how Cybercode, which it said had “no apparent industry knowledge,” managed to beat more than 20 other bidders, several of which were said to have been armed with “impressive international credentials.”

It also suggested that own Medical Online’s contribution to the ongoing implementation of the Telehealth project left much to be desired.

However, Cybercode managing director and Medical Online president and CEO Dr Mohd Hishammudin Harun denied employing any underhanded tactics to secure the contract or that the company was a free-rider on the project.

“We’ve shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears for this project and have hardly had a day of rest since we became involved,” he said.

According to Hishammudin, Cybercode was first approached by consultants at Sun Microsystems Inc to participate in the Telehealth CRFP. After the two agreed to work together for the Telehealth CRFP, a loose grouping of about 20 to 40 people was then formed to work on a proposal – the actual number of people varying depending on the expertise required at a given moment.

The group, while largely made up of Cybercode staff earmarked to drive the effort, also involved consultants from various companies – including Sun and Oracle Corp – and organisations based in the United States, Britain and Australia.

“After assembling the team, we then locked ourselves in a hotel for a marathon session that lasted 46 days to develop the proposal,’’ said Hishammudin, who added that after submitting the proposal, the bulk of the group “rested for just one day before turning our attention towards finetuning the proposal.”

In January last year, the Cybercode-led consortium was awarded the contract for three of the four Telehealth flagship application’s components – Mass Customised and Personalised Health Information and Education (MCPHIE), Continuing Medical Education (CME) and Lifetime Health Plan (LHP) – while the Teleconsultation component went to a consortium led by World- Care Health (M) Sdn Bhd. Hishammudin said that even if Cybercode had been unsuccessful in its bid for the Telehealth project, the company would have gone on to develop telehealth software of its own.

“When we saw the CRFP blueprint for Telehealth, we immediately realised that there was a potential for marketing its applications not only locally, but also globally,” he said.

The company had gone as far as building several prototypes of the Telehealth application during the period when it was finetuning its proposal.

According to Hishammudin, about 70% to 80% of the software that Medical Online is developing for the Telehealth project has been built from the ground up, while the remaining pieces were bought off the shelf.

“The software’s intellectual property rights will be owned by Malaysia … and that speaks a lot for what we have done,” he claimed.

No cost increase
Hishammudin also sought to assuage public fears that the cost of healthcare would increase substantially with the full introduction of the Telehealth flagship application.

“I don’t think the Government would want to burden the man in the street … it is going to be very affordable,” he claimed.

As it stands, Medical Online is not looking to make “much money” from the current Telehealth implementation. The company said the bulk of its revenues in the future would come from outside the project.

Most of its revenues from the project itself would come from the LHP component, which is the crown jewel in the entire Telehealth application.

LHP will comprise sophisticated software to utilise the health records located in databases and a clinical support system for doctors to develop personalised lifetime health plans for each individual.

Under the Telehealth project, this component will be implemented in four Government hospitals located in Kajang, Seremban, Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur.

“We have, in our hands, an application that has huge commercial potential, both locally and internationally,” said Hishammudin.

Medical Online is already involved in several telehealth projects in South Africa and Saudi Arabia, where a pilot project is scheduled to begin in September.

Hishammudin said bodies such as the World Health Organisation have also expressed their interest.