Four Trends Shaping Asia’s Healthcare Post Pandemic

Meet Mr. Phillip Wray, Vice President of Business Unit Healthcare, Head of Country Management, DKSH Vietnam to keep updated with trends in healthcare in Asia in the post-pandemic period.

In the early days, physicians often conducted testing for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by smelling a patient's bodily emissions to help with diagnosis. Today, with the help of technology, testing can be performed via “breathalyzer”. On a recent business trip to Taiwan, where the government has been investing in innovation development, I had a chance to experience how a “breathalyzer” helps to diagnose diseases such as COVID-19, influenza, strep, staph, candida, and many other pathogens just by one breath. Each breath is monitored by an artificial intelligence database to deliver a diagnosis with high level of accuracy in a short period of time.

This kind of “breathalyzer”, if successfully commercialized, has the potential to be an affordable and easy-to-use health tool for personalized screening and diagnosis. This is just an example of how the healthcare industry has advanced with technology and innovation. Digitization has become even more tangible, especially during the challenging years that every industry has been through due to the widespread prevalence of COVID-19 cases across the globe. Healthcare companies have worked hard to embrace digital tools and technologies to be more agile and remain relevant under such circumstances.

Being the trusted partner for sustainable growth of hundreds international healthcare companies for over 150 years across 37 markets, DKSH is in a unique position which helps us identify the four trends that are shaping the healthcare industry in Asia post pandemic.

1. Advanced Health Tools and Innovation: The most visible transformation of healthcare during and post-COVID-19 is the adoption of digital health tools – telehealth, personal devices providing real-time access care, social determinants of health databases, and cloud-based data storage solutions. These can help increase patient adherence, resulting in a much more effective course of treatment. Wearables have shifted drastically to become everyone’s health monitoring devices in recent years. In addition to providing real- time, accurate measurements and keep track of the body temperature, heart rate, and electrocardiogram (ECG), many companies are now racing to make the “impossible” possible and offer non-invasive continuous glucose monitoring wearables. When such wearable devices are made available, capilliary samples can be replaced, and nearly 9% of the global population who have diabetes will have a better chance to conveniently diagnose, monitor, and manage their condition and treatment. Tracking the daily data gathered over many years and monitoring the disease as well as comorbidity progression will allow better tailoring of treatment options, which will ultimately result in better outcomes for patients, the health system, and the economy.

2. Patient Support Program: Digital patient support programs (PSPs) have become increasingly important since the pandemic outbreak. To help our healthcare clients and partners address the rising need for digital PSPs, DKSH has been investing in developing our PSPhere solution which allows our clients and partners to tailor the solution digitally to their specific needs at an affordable cost. The solution enables a two-way engagement with patients to help solve any issues throughout their care journeys. It also enables them to interact with other stakeholders who will be critical in delivering cost-effective and high-quality care. In Vietnam, the PSPhere solution has been implemented to better support patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) get better access to medication and treatment. IPF is a chronic, irreversible, and progressive lung disease that causes scarring of the lungs. It can lead to shortness of breath, cough, and decreased exercise tolerance – and ultimately – respiratory failure. In some cases, the condition can be slowed by certain medications, whereas lung transplantations may be necessary for advanced cases.

3. Data & AI: In today’s digitized healthcare system, we are surrounded by mountains of data, which is linked to the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI). While the technology has been available for some time, the recent release of ChatGPT has made AI available to the masses. There is no doubt AI will have significant positive impacts on healthcare in areas such as diagnosis, tailored therapies, and economic impacts. The use of AI use can speed up the drug development process. AI diagnostic solutions are already present in many countries assisting medical professionals in identifying any areas of concern during regular screening procedures, such as cervical examinations, gastroscopies, and colonoscopies. This leads to earlier identification of illnesses as well as earlier intervention opportunities, which result in improved outcomes.

Applying AI across the huge amounts of data will also allow organizations and healthcare providers to gain much greater insights into all aspects of their operations. It will enable them to pick up trends faster, forecast demand more accurately, identify which activities have the highest impact, which will all in turn help drive efficiency and improve outcomes. The advances we will see in the healthcare space in the next three to five years resulting from AI will be of considerable extent.

Nevertheless, it is important that every healthcare organization remains responsible for the data privacy management, while harnessing the benefits of AI. Ethics and compliance must always be of utmost priority. That is why at DKSH, we adhere to the highest ethical norms and compliance standards in data and analytics to protect all stakeholders.

4. Digital Workforce: The sense of urgency for the digital transformation in the healthcare industry has notably increased over the last few years. This development is directly linked to the high demand for a workforce that is equipped with digital capabilities. Investing in reskilling and upskilling the current and future workforce will become critical to follow through with large-scale transformation goals and support new service delivery models. At DKSH, digitization is a driving factor of our continuous evolution and leveraging data and analytics with our digitally literate specialists will remain priorities in our own digital transformation.