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At the Intersection of Healthcare and Technology – Healthtech is Engaged and Fueled for Explosive Momentum

The prevailing sentiment in global markets for the first quarter of 2016 was quite bearish, especially in the venture capital sector. However, in a sharp contrast with the slowdown in venture funding in the general tech sector, digital health and healthtech funding is tracking towards another record high in 2016 based on its performance in Q1.

To better understand the continued explosion of funding in this space, we should answer a few important, fundamental questions: “What is healthtech in Asia?”, “Why is healthtech important to Asia”, “Who is investing in healthtech in Singapore and Asia?”, and “Which healthtech startups in Singapore and Asia are attracting our attention?”. In this article, we explore how Asia healthtech is defined and who can majorly benefit from it.

The WHAT?

Healthtech exists at the intersection of healthcare and technology. It includes the lexicon of terms used in this context such as digital health, mHealth, eHealth, telemedicine, etc. Healthtech is driven by the revolution in technologies such as biosensors, genomics, etc. For Asia, Galen Growth Asia defines healthtech similarly but also includes frugal innovation, business model innovation, and consumer services. Today, improved biosensors allow us to dynamically collect biochemical and mechanical information previously only detectable via lab tests, while improved wireless networks and data storage enable us to communicate it economically. The frequent use of mobile devices allows us to collate nearly unlimited amounts of personal information with context. New technologies such as biosensors are lowering the entry costs into healthcare leading to very necessary frugal innovations. However, regulatory and legal frameworks of governments and the absence of critical technical standards are limiting the potential of healthtech across the region. Cognitive technologies, especially artificial intelligence, allow us to analyze data efficiently and in more effective ways. Finally, many of these technological advances will require new business models in order to reach the point of care and realize the societal value of healthtech.

The WHAT?

New technologies and reforms in healthcare like the recent “declaration of war against diabetes” by Singapore’s Health Minister Gan Kim Yong are fueling healthtech funding. Increasingly important, the use of digital health will not be restricted to healthcare service providers but applicable to the broader population, also. The global skyrocketing growth of smartphone usage provides solid ground for future healthcare implementations. According to the Mobile Economy Growth Report 2015 by GSMA Intelligence, by 2020 we expect a number of unique subscribers exceeding 4.7 bn users and a total number of 3 bn smart-phones in Asia Pacific alone. According to a survey conducted by Deloitte’s Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) group, Singapore was ranked as having the highest smartphone penetration in the world at 88 % in 2015, an increase by 3 % compared to the numbers in 2014, but an almost 16 % jump compared to the numbers in 2013. The high penetration of connectivity provides major advantages for both end-users and service providers when using Digital Health technologies. More importantly, Singapore with its fast-aging population will need investment in new technologies to support the growth in the elderly population: by 2020, 1 in every 5 Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above. Using present traditional healthcare services, by 2020, Singapore would require 20,000 more healthcare professionals.

The WHO?

The digital landscape provides a huge amount of data that is available from both consumers and providers. Information from both healthcare consumers and providers will have a beneficial impact on the healthcare landscape. Whenever equipment is designed for the healthtech markets, demographics and user ability must be taken into account, such as their dexterity, cognitive, and functional ability. Access to accurate health information must be as easy as a few swipes on your smartphone. Today, new devices and apps do not answer ‘what is beneficial for healthcare services’ anymore, but give a response to the question of ‘how does the consumer benefits from an innovation?’. It is notable that unlike the US and Europe with its investments in genomics, in Singapore’s thriving economy most healthcare fundraising has been in healthcare system navigation, sensors, diagnostics and patient engagement. Singapore’s strong position as an initiator for innovations offers a smart environment for entrepreneurs and healthtech startups. The growth in healthcare demand and consumerism has created a new environment – one that is thriving, engaged and fueled for explosive momentum.


Authored by: Dario Heymann

Edited by: Helene Champoux

Copyright © 2017 Galen Growth Asia

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