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October 23, 2020

5 things to know about the Asia-Pacific Digital Health Market

HealthXL Research Team

Covid-19 is spearheading a digital healthcare transformation allowing patients to gain access to a doctor without stepping into a hospital or clinic. Here we explore how digital health is flourishing in Asian-Pacific (APAC) countries and take a sneak-peek into the future of digital healthcare in this exciting and upcoming digital marketplace.

Key Takeaways

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1. APAC; an under-rated and growing digital health market?

                    Source: [Wikipedia](<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Asian_countries_by_population,_2018.png>) 

WeAreSocial’s Digital 2019 report revealed that Southeast Asia was the fastest-growing region in terms of internet, mobile and social media users over the recent years. The demand for digital healthcare in Asia is rising due to several reasons, primarily economic; lack of high-end infrastructure, monetary constraints, shortage of medical equipment and medical professionals, especially in rural areas. According to the World Health Organisation, Southeast Asian countries tend to have fewer physicians on average (approx.0.6) for every 1000 people of the population. This ratio plummets further when we zero in on specific countries such as Indonesia (0.1). This is a stark comparison to developed economies such as Germany, which has 3.7. The Mayo Clinic states that accessibility is one of the primary drivers of telehealth adoption worldwide accentuating the salience of the Asian market given that over 50% of its populations living in rural areas. The high incidence of chronic, non-communicable diseases in APAC such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, has also helped spark the digitalisation of this emerging market.

“By 2020, the APAC MedTech market is expected to reach USD 133 billion” -    Deloitte

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2. Covid-19; a silver lining for digital health

Image by Brian McGowan

With the unbridled spreading of Covid-19 and issuing of stay-at-home orders, doctors around the globe are capitalizing on telemedicine as a new-old way to reach their patients. In leading countries like Singapore, 64% of healthcare professionals are reported to already employ some form of digital to monitor their patients. Covid-19 is predicted to continue to accelerate the adoption of telemedicine in China and Singapore where the phenomenon has already gained traction.

China's long-standing investment in digital has set it apart from other countries in the fight against Covid-19 

China has been particularly noted for its capacity to leverage digital resources in the fight against Covid-19. In the past decade, China has invested heavily in big data, AI, and other IT funds in the healthcare field setting it ahead of the game when we compare region-specific responses to the pandemic. Tencent and Elsevier recently collaborated to share medical information with Chinese doctors. Alibaba Cloud is delivering AI computing power to bolster large chunks of data analysis, large-scale literature screening and scientific super-computing work. China has also leveraged the use of robots to support frontline health workers. Medical robots at Wuhan Thunder Mountain Hospital have been deployed to disinfect hospital wards, monitor patient’s temperature and organise medical supplies, thereby diminishing the workload of medical staff and reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

On the other hand, more conservative markets, such as South Korea and Hong Kong are more tentatively adopting digital health tools in response to the pandemic. The demand for such services in these regions is relatively low in comparison due to the cultural attitude and lack of funding.

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What's brewing in Japan?

Japan has experientially highlighted the advantages of digital in its response to Covid-19. In particular, it is honing in on telemedicine and clinical trials as tools to help curb infection rates and plan for future preventative measures. Pivoting towards digital health has been shown to help alleviate the diagnostic error rate in Japan, which is estimated to be around 30%.

Japan has seen the world’s second-largest national share of investment in pharmaceutical and healthcare research and the government is looking to close the gap by focusing in on the US. In 2014, The SAKIGAKE strategy was adopted by the Japanese government to support the R&D sector with an aim of enhancing the country’s role in the practical innovation of pharmaceuticals. The result, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, has been to turn the country into “the world leader in regenerative medical products and an attractive place for biotech firms to do business.”

Image from Global Regulatory Partners

India has seen incredible growth over the past decade.

Despite its lagging development, India has contributed to highlighting the indispensable nature of digital. India's accelerated adoption of digital was specifically noted during Covid-19 following the release of Aarogya Setu, a mobile app, used for contact tracing, syndromic mapping and self-assessment. Other digital health solutions like CureFit, Practo, Medlife, PharmEasy, 1mg are achieving accelerated acceptance during these times.

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3. Aging as a driver for digital health in the APAC region

Image from China Daily Global

4. SE Asia's digital health leaders

With the capacity to cut down on unnecessary hospital expenditures, in person follow-ups, and unnecessary travel during Covid-19, digital has paved the way for digital transformation of our healthcare systems. Leading by example in APAC we have:

"COVID-19 is pushing remote monitoring and digital therapeutics to the forefront of medicine," said Biofourmis CEO Kuldeep Singh Rajput.

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5. APAC region is projected to grow by 34.2% CAGR by 2025

Image from Graphical research report

Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital health by people all over the world and APAC is no exception. Despite the headwinds, the capacity for a digital health revolution to break the boundaries of conventional medicine and have a lasting impact is an under-rated possibility of the APAC market. We will continue to keep an eye on this space!

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