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Demographic Challenges on Healthcare and How to Tackle Them

Innovations in HealthTech provide a promising path for Asian economies to achieve sustainability in healthcare. Big Data, Telemedicine, mHealth and eHealth have become new buzzwords and connect investments in the technology and healthcare sectors. Some of the initial major breakthroughs in health technologies are the innovations in biosensors and genomics that were made over the past years. About 50 years after the first biosensor was described by Clark and Lyons in 1962, biosensors were made affordable to everyone due to frugal innovations, by companies like Jawbone, FitBit and Garmin. Today, it is more than important to prioritize the health and fitness of people and state-of-the-art technology certainly will fulfill an important role in the care of people particularly in the home, where such care is usually coordinated by a home healthcare agency and supervised by a doctor.

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According to Venture Scanner in February 2016, the biggest sectors in the US ecosystem for HealthTech are IOT Fitness with about 13 % market share followed by Digital Medical Devices, Clinical Administration and EHR/EMR each with about 9 % market share.

Demographic Shifts Challenge the Asian Healthcare Market

Doctors_PatientsIn Asia, healthcare demand is increasing rapidly, driven mainly by demographic shifts that outstrip those of other geographies and epidemiological shifts including infectious diseases and chronic diseases that match western markets. Today, most spending in the healthcare sector comes from the public sector, and the fiscally constrained governments are challenged to meet their population’s needs, as a growing number of APAC countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand have increased investments in healthcare sharply in recent years. In the future, the major goal is to provide accessibility to care in both urbanized and remote areas at the highest quality and lowest cost. To have access to healthcare at any time at a central place outside hospitals and doctor’s offices makes care more affordable and convenient. The accessibility includes more than just the interface with caregivers and healthcare suppliers, it involves an interoperable ecosystem of information exchange of patient records, applications, biosensors, and wearables. Following the US model, health sectors are shifting towards consumers. New players appear on the field to capitalize and innovate the health market globally. In Asia particularly, the growing middle income population, aging population, economic prosperity, and public policy are the key demands of better healthcare and will ultimately manifest an undeniable shift in the healthcare ecosystem.

The Future Impact of Telemedicine

Telemedicine refers to a tool that improves access to healthcare services through the use of telecommunication technologies and accessibility of remote medical expertise. In Singapore, telemedicine or Smart Health Assistants able the elderly and patients with chronic diseases to proactively screen their health at home. Telemedicine allows patients to better understand their conditions interactively and consequently manage their own health. In recent years the appearance of cardiovascular diseases has increased significantly. In 2010, the incidence rate was measured by the Ministry of Health at 20 %, mainly prominent among middle-age adults. According to the Singapore Heart Foundation, every day, 15 people die from heart diseases and strokes in Singapore. Further innovations in telemedicine can be used to pro-actively monitor incidences and monitor a patient’s status. Functions that should be provided in future should include:

  • Individualized health reports
  • Enhanced clinical management
  • Interactive communication between patients and healthcare professionals
  • Health education
  • Health promotion (as defined by the WHO in 2005)

The secondary major scope for telemedicine should also be to improve the equity in accessing care for everyone at reduced costs.

eHealth as Promising Investment

eHealth refers to the use of the Internet for the transmission of medical information. In 2004, Joyes A. Mitchell predicted that the Human Genome Project and eHealth will alter the way we approach human health and life. The agglutination of Big Data created from genome research and eHealth further open ways for Big Data analytics, artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning to correlate genetic profiles, daily medication, and survival outcomes. In Singapore today, Big Data analytics are mostly used to improve efficiency and effectiveness. The collection of EHRs as part of the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) is the major linchpin of the “Singapore Healthcare 2020 Masterplan.”

mHealth is Used to Meet Present Challenges

mHealth, or mobile health is another promising sector in the future of healthcare. It refers to the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices. In 2012, the Singaporean telecommunication carrier Singtel launched Project Silverline, a project to refurbish old iPhones with health and wellness apps for the elderly. Already today, more than 70 % of all Singaporean aged 50 and above use mHealth technologies with a continued growing trend. With its high adaptation of new technologies, Singapore represents an unprecedented trailblazer in Asia and globally. Today, mHealth solutions reach from fitness tracking, smart aging and sleep pattern tracking to live chats between patients and doctors and medication updates. With new mHealth innovations popping out of, and into, Singapore almost weekly, customers can choose how they can benefit the most.

A modernization and reform of healthcare driven by innovations and support in HealthTech, the agglomeration of telemedicine, eHealth and mHealth, will result in optimal health management of populations in the future.

Galen Growth Asia is an independent organisation with the objective of developing the healthtech ecosystem across Asia through collaboration between all interested stakeholders.


Authored by: Dario Heymann

Edited by: Helene Champoux

Copyright © 2017 Galen Growth Asia

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