Asia’s digital health revolution

Bidhan Roy
The widespread adoption of digital solutions is boosting medical infrastructure in Asia
Managing Director, Head of Commercial & Small Business, Asia Pacific, Japan & China, Cisco

While COVID-19 has posed challenges for the practice of medicine, it has also presented unique opportunities for telemedicine and telehealth to take centre stage in the ‘new normal’ of medicine.

This has been particularly true in the Asia-Pacific region. McKinsey has projected the Asia-Pacific med-tech market to grow to about $133 billion in 2020, surpassing the EU as the second-largest market globally.

The reason for this growth? The digital transformation of healthcare has bridged many gaps that the medical sector has been unable to fill, with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) playing an important role.  

Medical digitisation improves access to healthcare

Due to growing prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, aging populations and chronic diseases have created an increasing demand for healthcare. However, the existing medical sector in the region has had difficulties meeting this increased demand, owing to various factors from budgetary limitations to healthcare infrastructure. In particular, access to healthcare in less developed areas can be low, with major population-dense cities gaining a larger share.

Digitisation can improve access in areas with difficulties through telehealth technologies that provide consultations even to those living in remote areas. A good example of this is Halodoc, an Indonesian telehealth platform that serves more than seven million patients per month, provides both tele-consultation services with certified medical professionals, as well as the delivery of prescription drugs. This is especially valuable to its client base, which mostly resides outside major cities like Jakarta and Surabaya, where healthcare infrastructure is less established. 

Digitalisation boosts medical infrastructures

In countries with well-developed medical infrastructure, digitalisation offers many inherent benefits that even the best offline clinics and hospitals have difficulty providing. Convenience for the customer is a great benefit, as they no longer need to travel to see a doctor when they are feeling unwell, increasing the likelihood of patients seeking medical treatment. Virtual appointments also greatly reduce risk of transmission of pathogens from patient to doctor.

Technology has an incredible capacity to fill gaps within existing medical infrastructure by increasing access to healthcare. While COVID-19 spurred this trend, there is no reason this should stop.

Singapore has taken a keen interest in cultivating the telemedicine sector. The Ministry of Health has been working closely with innovative telemedicine services through its LEAP sandbox initiative, which reduces regulatory barriers for innovative business models to operate. This type of governmental willingness to embrace innovation can often lead to great results.

One such success is Doctor Anywhere, a telehealth company that provides affordable virtual consultation services and medication prescriptions. Serving over a million users, its success shows that even in medically advanced nations, medical digitalisation still fulfils a need that existing service providers cannot.

How healthcare SMEs can benefit from tech innovation models

Digital innovations are not confined to telehealth startups that are built from the ground up with technology in mind. Existing medical SMEs can adopt digital innovation strategies to improve their operations too.

Offline clinics and medical practices can and should adopt tele-consultation technology so that their services are not limited by geography, potentially reaching a wider pool of clients. Treatments that are administered from the comfort of the patient’s home, like kidney dialysis, are bettered with the application of electronic monitoring technology that monitors and records the relevant data for review by medical professionals even remotely. Many of these technological solutions even manage and organise patients’ data for easy access and review.

The willingness to adapt to new technology is extremely pertinent now, at a time when many medical operators in the region are experiencing business disruption due to various nationwide lockdown measures imposed in view of COVID-19. Adopting technologies that allow medical services to continue remotely will improve the resilience of medical SMEs even in such trying times.

The digital transformation of healthcare has bridged many gaps that the medical sector has been unable to fill, with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) playing an important role.

Body Logic Physiotherapy, Joondalup is one such example of small business resilience. Recognising the need to evolve with the changing business climate, Body Logic Physiotherapy, Joondalup digitalised its operations by adopting cloud managed IT technologies that facilitated their provision of digital therapy ‘telehealth’ services. By pairing high-definition smart video camera technology with secure high-speed internet access, therapists can monitor patients remotely to keep staff safe.

A reliable and robust network is essential

However, when pivoting to telehealth, SMEs must be cognisant of the cybersecurity concerns that arise from video usage in healthcare. This is especially pertinent in medicine, where patients may be in uncompromising contexts when seeking treatment over video call.

Protecting the patient’s privacy is paramount, as much as their information and data. As such, it is imperative that the data storage and network services used for telehealth consultations is secure. This will entail having enterprise-grade security to provide approved staff access to the most sensitive and regulated data. This also includes the importance of not neglecting basics such as having a backup cellular network support in the event of wired network failure to ensure good patient experience.

Technology has an incredible capacity to fill gaps within existing medical infrastructure by increasing access to healthcare. While COVID-19 spurred this trend, there is no reason this should stop.

SMEs will certainly benefit in the long run should they digitalise their services, as it improves their resilience and allows them to tap into new markets.

While cybersecurity concerns exist, they can be overcome by adopting the right tools that ensure privacy and safety, while still delivering high-speed telehealth services that benefit both doctor and patient.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Author profile
Managing Director, Head of Commercial & Small Business, Asia Pacific, Japan & China, Cisco

With over 20 years of IT industry management experience in the Asia-Pacific region, Bidhan’s experience spans across areas including business transformation, mergers and acquisitions, strategic planning as well as partner lifecycle management and stakeholder management. For the past 14 years, he has held strategic and leadership roles at Cisco across the Asia-Pacific, Japan & Greater China (APJC) region, leading segments and function teams including Service Provider, Services Sales, Marketing and Commercial across India, ASEAN and APJC. In his current role, Bidhan is responsible for driving the regional strategy for these segments and leading diverse teams across the region to drive revenue growth.

You may also like