10 Reasons Why Asia is Powering Digital Health Acceleration

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doctor using transparent tablet with hologram digital health technology

Digital Health is being positioned as a game changer in emerging economies, where mobile connectivity is transforming horizons. Digital health applications include a wide range of applications including:

  • Artificial intelligence for medical records, collecting patient data, making assessments, diagnoses, improving service delivery and cost-efficiencies
  • mHealth interventions
  • Big data and analytics for healthcare management and improvement
  • Data governance and cybersecurity
  • Blockchain for supply chain integrity, digital identity provision, data security
  • Drones for last mile delivery
  • IoT for data collection and patient management
  • Robotics for health care delivery efficiencies

Digital Health is growing globally as healthcare systems respond to aging populations, congestion of hospitals, and shortages of health workers. Digital Health is revolutionising care directly and becoming a critical enabler of change in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors, where there has been growing appetite for an expansion of offerings with drug manufacturers shifting their focus to integrated care provision as part of the “beyond-the-pill” services. 

 COVID19 has enforced a rapid decentralisation of almost all aspects of human life.  The importance of high-quality health data has never been so clearly demonstrated as it has been during the Pandemic.  Access to interoperable and secure medical data sets is needed for most advances in medicine, and are needed for training AI, for drug development, scientific discovery, medical research and precision medicine, yet much medical data sits idle and is not being used or monetised. The growing focus on data analytics will end up turning medical devices into commodities, with the patient-level data and the surrounding analytics becoming an important source of revenue for Digital Health companies.

PRIME TIME FOR ASIA  

It is predicted the global Digital Health market will see a 37.1% spike in growth in 2021 and will grow to US$508.8 billion by the year 2027. 

Historically Europe and the US have led in Healthtech, but the Asian Digital Health market is currently growing at double the speed of the European and American markets. McKinsey reports that Asia already represents 23 percent of the global market. By 2023, Asia will eclipse Europe to become the second-largest regional market, and is anticipated to be the fastest-growing regional market from  2021 to 2028 contributing 35 percent of total  growth.

Why will Asia be the powerhouse for growth? Here are the reasons why:

  1. Rising smartphone penetration and increasing adoption of smart wearable devices.
  2. The Pandemic removed barriers including patient acceptance and has accelerated the drive for patients not in need of intensive care to be managed out of hospitals. Asian companies working in health tech, stepped up to provide new strategies to help combat the pandemic.
  3. The digitization of Asia is unprecedented, led by China, and has eclipsed every western market. China, with their “Healthy China 2030”, is digitalising healthcare to improve efficiency, to reduce the burden on hospitals, and to incentivize the relationship between patients, doctors, and the healthy population through wearables, apps, home equipment, and virtual doctor schemes. Asian digital healthcare players are building an ecosystem of connectivity, information, and services that extends, in China, to virtually every physician, consumer, and patient in the country.  China is driving a mobile payment revolution: telemedicine is reimbursable through public health insurance; the government is moving tendering and pricing information online; and leading digital enterprises have built businesses valued at $1 billion plus by moving physician consultations online or managing public healthcare data through advanced analytics and artificial intelligence
  4. This trend is being followed in other Asian economies, in Japan, the government has pledged to tie pricing and reimbursement more closely to outcomes.
  5. In Indonesia, the government has instituted a capitation system that pays the equivalent of $1 a month per person to healthcare facilities in order to provide primary care coverage for patients.
  6. Malaysia and Japan have already established a national warehouse that enables data sharing between public hospitals.
  7. India’s digital potential is staggering,  the size of the country’s online pharmacy market is expected to increase more than sevenfold from roughly US$500 million in 2018 to over US$3.5 billion in 2022. Local startups like PharmEasy have served as testaments to this rapid growth, raising more than US$300 million from  investors such as Temasek. Doctor teleconsulting services have served over 100,000 cases over the past few months alone, taking off partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Digital access remains an issue and Indian digital wallet platform PhonePe recently launched a series of 15-second videos that teach users about financial fraud and offer simplified navigation instructions on its payment-based ecosystem.  More than 85% of new internet users over the next five years in India will be non-English speakers. Voice and language versatility will be essential and with an illiteracy rate over 25% and investing in voice-operated technology will increase accessibility. Voice-activated technology is fast becoming the fastest way to come online with projections suggesting that up  80% of digital actions will be initiated through voice as opposed to traditional keypads in the future.
  1.  On the back of digitization, Asian markets will likely surpass western systems in their ability to aggregate and analyze healthcare data.  Medical data are among the most valuable data sets  and Forbes estimate that a patient’s medical data could be valued at more than $1000.   A substantial part of the global health market projection will be from monetization of patients and individual health data records.   
  2. Asia is one of the highest population growth areas of the world, and this coupled with aging populations will force innovation and digitalisation on the health care system.
  3. There are already serious shortages of physicians and other health workers, in many parts of Asia where specialists are concentrated in the city, digitally connected equipment can expand the reach of clinicians to ensure patients in provincial or rural areas have access to specialist services.

Conclusion

These 10 factors have fueled digital health acceleration and the rapid arrival of the digital health economy in Asia. COVID-19 has normalised the use of digital solutions in our everyday lives, transforming healthcare norms.  From telehealth to remote patient analytics, to data, technology promises to enable Asia to leapfrog healthcare access hurdles, manage healthcare needs and improve their quality of life.  The APAC digital health market is projected to grow by 34.2% CAGR over the next 5 years, this will provide fruitful opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs.

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