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Digital Health for the Evolving Asian Healthcare Sector

The convergence of digital technologies is helping us lead longer, healthier, more empowered lifestyles. In Asia, increasing awareness around health and wellness is giving rise to a diligent, discerning type of consumer – one that is demanding more participatory, personalised, innovative approaches to healthcare. Healthcare providers and organisations that recognise, engage and reward consumers throughout their journeys will drive improved outcomes and benefit from strengthened relationships.


Collaborative healthcare relationships

Healthcare  has  traditionally  conjured  up  the  image  of  a  ‘patient’  –  passive,  dependent  on  their  physician  for  treatment of their disease. In the more recent years, this view  has  shifted  dramatically  to  that  of  a  ‘consumer’  –  one that is active, highly discerning of wait times, costs, quality and seeks to proactively manage their health. The rise  of  this  highly  informed,  empowered  consumer  has  fundamentally altered the physician-patient relationship. Armed  with  data  from  a  variety  of  sources,  consumers  expect more involvement, more choice and control over decision  making  and  seek  to  be  engaged  as  partners  and collaborators in their health journey. The pandemic, in  addition,  has  heightened  consumer  awareness  and  accelerated their desire to take ownership in managing their health, lifestyle and wellness.

While  trusted  clinician  relationships  will  remain  central  to  the  ideal  healthcare  experience,  engaging  consumers and patients on their terms, and on channels and touchpoints of their choice as they go through their healthcare journey will become the critical differentiator in an increasingly competitive market. Organisations that holistically map their consumer’s end-to-end healthcare journeys as they connect the dots between their lifestyle, technology, wellness and quality of life to deliver tailored engagement and interactions will win the heart and minds of this consumer.

Transparency and value

The steep rise in healthcare costs, especially in markets such as Singapore, Australia and India are driving demand for  affordable  healthcare  and  the  need  for  increased  accountability and transparency in cost-to-care. This has in turn given rise to a growing focus on value-based and outcome-based care. A study has shown that more than 75  percent  of  new  cancer  patients  in  South  East  Asia  experience financial catastrophe or die within a year of diagnosis.

The imperative to innovate

The pandemic  has  accelerated  the  need  for  healthcare  to be delivered anytime, anywhere and ‘digital first’. The region has seen strong growth in innovative technologies such as telemedicine,  digital  therapeutics,  remote  monitoring over the past few years

  • For example,  Ping  An  Good  Doctor,  a  Chinese  healthcare  services  platform,  and  MyDoc,  a  telemedicine platform headquartered in Singapore, have more than doubled their active users since 2020.
  • China has  repurposed  an  artificial  intelligence  model  that  was  used  to  detect  cancer  to  help  isolate  and  diagnose  potential  COVID-19  patients  in  under  10
  • Australia recently launched its first ‘virtual hospital’ that deployed the  Caretaker  Remote  Monitoring  platform  for surveillance of COVID-19 patients in their homes to help reduce the pressure on the Australian healthcare system. The wireless device will be used to track the vital  signs  including  heart  rate,  temperature,  oxygen  saturation,  blood  pressure  and  breathing  of  patients  with moderate symptoms in their homes.
  • mClinica  is  a  startup  that  is  providing  digital  patient  assistance  programs  across  Asia  to  increase  access  to medication, improve affordability of healthcare and boost adherence rates. The platform enables registered patients to get access to free or discounted medication, while  equipping  healthcare  practitioners  and  pharma  companies with tools to send targeted health education messages and prescription refill reminders to patients.

With  50  percent  of  physicians  and  consumers  ready  to adopt innovative technologies such as telemedicine and remote care in the next 5 years, healthcare organisations and providers in Asia need to improve and innovate the ways in which they are delivering value to consumers of the future. Healthcare  organisations  in  Asia  Pacific  are  transforming  themselves  scaling,  innovation  hubs  and  adopting  Agile  and  Design  Thinking  methods  to  rapidly  deliver  solutions  for  evolving  consumer  needs  and  behaviours  across  the  value chain.

Personalisation in healthcare 

Advances  in  medical  science,  data  and  technology  combined  with  reduced  cost  of  genomic  sequencing  technologies has given rise to the delivery of personalized healthcare and precision medicine tailored to individual genetic,  behavioural  and  environmental  information.  Singapore for example, is ranked as the highest performer in  the  region  for  personalised  healthcare  readiness,  as  ranked  by  Personalised  Health  Index,  developed  by  Roche and Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies. Consumers  in  Asia  are  increasingly  embracing  the  use  of  sensors,  wearables,  smart  devices  that  continuously  track  everything  from  vital  signs,  sleep  patterns,  caloric  intake  and  activity  levels  to  provide  a  rich, real-time behavioural profile

The convergence of these two trends has created an environment for highly proactive, personalized, preventative health solutions.

  • CureApp, a  startup  based  in  Tokyo  is  delivering  the  world’s  first  nicotine  addiction  treatment  via  an    Comprising 3 components – a patient app, a doctor app and a portable CO checker device CureApp supports patients through personalized guidance in their attempts to quit smoking
  • With a  fast-growing  elderly  population,  the  Yonsei  University  Medical  Centre  in  Korea  is  developing  AI  based  mental  health  services  using  wearables  to  support the elderly with depression and other mental health conditions.

Healthcare systems on the other hand are integrating datasets across the  consumer  or  patient  journey  —  from  arrival at a hospital to check-ups, hospitalisation, treatment and hospital discharge in order to enhance holistic care and management, not only reducing the need for long hospital stays  but  also  to  support  early  diagnosis  and  alternative  treatments.  However, this  needs  to  be  paired  with  a  framework for managing data, and the privacy and security implications that come with it. Success (and failure) will hinge on the trust and comfort levels a consumer has in sharing their most intimate information with providers.

While innovative technologies such as personalisation, remote  monitoring,  telehealth,  artificial  intelligence  and  predictive  analytics  offer  opportunities  to  improve  the  relationship  between  the  healthcare  consumer  and  healthcare  provider,  the  real  value  will  be  driven  through  seamless  integration  and  orchestration  of  the  end-to-end  experience and solidified through trusted consumer-clinician relationships. Healthcare organisations that can deliver this, through  smart  technology  utilisation  will  benefit  not  just  from increased patient outcomes, loyalty and satisfaction, but  also  see  increased  efficiencies  and  improvements  in  operating models. [APBN]


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About the Author

Hema  Thiagarajah  is  Vice  President,  Client  Partner  for  Appnovation  APAC.  She  has  spent the past 15 years driving digital and customer strategies for  organisations  across  the  Asia Pacific region.