Healthcare is continuously evolving — from the widespread adoption of new technologies like remote health monitoring to the ever-changing landscape of regulatory approvals. Set against the backdrop of a world recovering from the pandemic, the region’s healthcare ecosystem is on a strong path of reform. What are some key trends that we can expect in 2023?
by Dr Varun Sethi
As markets in 2020 shook and entire populations stayed indoors, health systems across the globe had no choice but to put their best foot forward like never before. In a moment of great upheaval, challenged by an as-yet-unknown disease, one would not have thought that adversity would bear many fruits for Asia-Pacific’s healthcare industry today.
Two years later, the region’s healthcare ecosystem is on a strong path of reform, owing to its ability to constantly evolve by tapping on the next wave of innovation to drive efficiencies. Against this backdrop, Southeast Asia’s eHealth sector is expected to see a growth of 10 times by 2025.1 Much of this is being driven by initiatives to make the healthcare journey more affordable, accessible, and convenient, and by placing patients at the centre of it all. As we foray into the new year, technology will undoubtedly continue to play a big part in empowering health systems across the globe.
However, it does not stop here. The ongoing shift to digital healthcare systems comes alongside other transformative changes, and 2023 holds immense promise for Asia-Pacific’s healthcare industry. Here are some of the key trends that will impact the region’s healthcare industry this year:
1. Digital platforms will continue to transform patient care
Our industry’s dramatic pivot to a more digitalised healthcare system over the last few years was driven by force, and not design. While industry players were already looking for ways to further embrace technology within healthcare solutions, the pandemic led us to quickly rethink the ways in which healthcare was administered to patients as well – leading to the blurring of lines between technology and health that we see today.
One example is the greater acceptance of telemedicine and remote monitoring as an effective substitute for routine, in-person checks. Digital technologies that were previously associated with corporate use have not only revolutionised how people access healthcare, but also brought relief to over-stretched workers in hospitals and clinics everywhere.
In addition, once-futuristic ideas such as artificial intelligence-enabled medical devices and blockchain electronic health records are also now seen as increasingly practical technologies supporting this headway. This integration and implementation of innovative healthcare solutions are helping enhance provider workflows by streamlining physicians’ work, optimising systems, improving patient outcomes, reducing human error, and lowering costs.
Most importantly, this allows us to create an ecosystem that revolves around the continuum of care – where healthcare providers follow a patient from preventive care, through medical incidents, recovery, and rehabilitation. The coordinated efforts, in tandem with HealthTech solutions, will result in better outcomes for patients in the long run.
2. Home-based healthcare will grow
With the increased access to data and insights that digital technologies can bring, people will now be able to take control of their own health like never before. Already, we are seeing countries such as Singapore moving towards a model of self-accountability when it comes to preventative healthcare for an ageing population.2
On the other hand, in countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia or even Indonesia, getting access to quality healthcare can often be challenging, in comparison to more developed countries in the region. Therein lies an opportunity for healthcare providers to extend the abovementioned continuum of care and go “beyond-the-pill.”
Such models of patient-centred healthcare—where healthcare practitioners aim to empower patients to manage their own health while optimising care beyond the primary institution—can range from remote monitoring devices to nurse educator programmes.
The latter aims to bridge the gap between healthcare professionals and patients. For example, patients who require long-term injectable medication are inclined to have lower adherence rates due to the fear of having to self-inject. The nurse educator program teaches the patient to self-inject, giving them the confidence to do this by themselves and ultimately improving adherence rates.
Centring healthcare services around the patient will ultimately improve outcomes for both patients and the healthcare ecosystem as a whole. As we step further into 2023, we expect more providers and patients to embrace “beyond-the-pill” services.
3. Balancing quality and value will become a priority
COVID-19 made a significant dent in healthcare expenditures for governments across the globe – and financial pressures continue to mount. Singapore is no exception, with national healthcare spending expected to rise from SGD 11.3 billion today to about SGD 27 billion by 2030,3 making up the bulk of increases in government social spending as the population ages.
This is driving a mindset shift towards the acquisition and delivery of medications and other healthcare products, and the role they play in helping to deliver quality care, but at affordable prices.
In light of this, we are now seeing a stronger push towards encouraging the prescription of generic medications, which will continue into 2023. In some countries, these can be up to 85% cheaper than branded alternatives,4 providing a more affordable option without sacrificing quality. Asia Pacific holds similar opportunities, with stakeholders placing a keen focus on increasing the procurement of medications at more affordable prices.5
This presents an opportunity for organisations like DKSH to help bring balance to the market, aiding pharma markets in achieving efficiencies in their top and bottom lines. This is especially the case for markets such as Vietnam and Indonesia, where local authorities posit a preference towards locally manufactured products.
Health systems are bound by a finite sum of dollars, and it is crucial for them to take into account many different considerations to stretch their dollar, whilst at the same time offering quality and effective care for their patient populations. Achieving a balance between quality and value will therefore become a key consideration for stakeholders within the space.
4. Regulatory processes will become more efficient
During the pandemic, governments and health regulators were approving products – from vaccinations and medical peripherals at speeds that would typically take much longer than mere weeks or months.6
As we prepare for the next pandemic or epidemic, risk-based regulatory decisions and interventions will be vital to coordinate access to safe, effective, and timely healthcare.
Moving forward, regulatory bodies—at both global and regional levels—must work as an integral part of wider public health systems. For example, consortiums such as the ACSS (comprising four regulatory health authorities across Australia, Canada, Switzerland, and Singapore), allow health product developers to simultaneously file a joint application to all four regulators and receive a consolidated set of queries.
The pandemic gave a new impetus for the further harmonisation of regulatory dossiers at a global or regional level and continuing this will bolster the industry’s progress and advancement of healthcare for all.
Towards a stronger future for healthcare
Healthcare reform in the Asia-Pacific has made significant headways since the dawn of COVID-19. From the advent of HealthTech, a renewed focus on preventative care, to stronger multi-regional collaboration to deliver quality care to the hands of the people – it is safe to say that the last two years yielded many wins for the healthcare industry, despite the adversity it presented. With the darkest days of the pandemic hopefully behind us, we now stand in a new era of healthcare that will ultimately lead to a more sustainable healthcare ecosystem for all. [APBN]
- Behera, R. R. (2021, September 13). Southeast Asia eHealth – Shaping Up Well. | Redseer.com. https://redseer.com/newsletters/southeast-asia-ehealth-shaping-up-well/.
- Teo, J. (2021, October 7). Shift towards digital healthcare system inevitable in Singapore, says expert panel | The Straits Times. Www.straitstimes.com. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/the-shift-towards-a-digital-healthcare-system-is-inevitable-in-singapore-panel?login=true
- Ministry Of Finance. (2022). Budget Explainers. MOF. https://www.mof.gov.sg/singapore-budget/budget-explainers
- Food & Drug Administration. (2021). Generic Drugs: Questions & Answers. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/frequently-asked-questions-popular-topics/generic-drugs-questions-answers#:~:text=The%20reduction%20in%20upfront%20research
- (2021). Generic Medications and Asia-Pacific Health Systems. https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/sg/pdf/2021/03/Generic-Medications-and-Asia-Pacific-Health-Systems.pdf
- Fortner, A., & Schumacher, D. (2021). First COVID-19 Vaccines Receiving the US FDA and EMA Emergency Use Authorization. Discoveries (Craiova), 9(1), e122. https://doi.org/10.15190/d.2021.1
About the Author
Dr Varun Sethi is the Vice President for Southeast Asia and Vietnam, and Commercial Services Lead for DKSH Business Unit Healthcare.
He has strong experience in the pharmaceutical space. He served as Treasurer for the Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia and Singapore Association of Pharmaceutical Companies until 2021, supporting key local initiatives.