Experts tackle digital healthcare innovation, UHC on first day of Healthcare AsiaSummit 2022 | Healthcare Asia Magazine
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Experts tackle digital healthcare innovation, UHC on first day of Healthcare AsiaSummit 2022

The event was attended by experts in the healthcare sector.

Healthcare was not exempt from technology disruption happening in recent years, and as it moves into the post-pandemic era, hospitals and healthcare organisations must learn how to adapt and ensure that they provide sustainable services for their patients.

These are amongst the issues discussed further by some healthcare experts and leaders who offered insights to hundreds of attendees on the first day of the Healthcare Asia Summit 2022, which occurred on 20 July.

Anurag Agrawal, partner and associate director of BCG, led the summit opening by introducing what it takes for a digital shift in healthcare to succeed amidst the observation that healthcare firms are still lagging behind sectors in digital maturity. Agrawal noted that firms have been investing heavily in digital transformation, but only 25% of healthcare companies are successful in doing so.

To be successful in the digital shift, Agrawal said healthcare firms should have a comprehensive strategy with clear goals; leadership commitment from the CEO level through the middle management; deploying capable talent; an agile governance mindset that drives broader adoption; effective monitoring of progress towards desired outcomes; and a business-led modular and data platform.

Agrawal also discussed the importance of investment in hardware and software when moving digital.

“When taking these digital investments, one needs to put in place architecture and software that are modern and fit for purpose for the organisation. One doesn't want the software to be overspent, but at the same time, one doesn't want it to be underspent,” Agrawal said.

Following Agrawal is Bumrungrad International Hospital CEO Artirat Charukitpipat for her speaking session on raising the bar on sustainable healthcare. Charukitpipat said to increase standards for sustainable healthcare, the whole value-based healthcare system must be improved to generate better patient outcomes.

She said they invested in telemedicine and the sharing of electronic medical records, which cut costs.

Then Dr. Thirunavukarasu Rajoo, honorary general secretary of the Malaysian Medical Association, underscored that spending funds on new technology is expensive for primary healthcare providers but it is necessary to convince the management that spending on these technologies will increase efficiency and productivity.

Rajoo also emphasised that there should be a clear governance structure to address data protection on patient health information.

“Ultimately, this responsibility shall fall on the organisation. Failing to do so to design managing losses, in some cases, could compromise the health of the patient,” he warned.

Joining the first panel with Tim Charlton, publisher of Charlton Media Group, are Dr. Rajoo, Dr. Gunnaphon Anamnart, senior executive member of Bangkok Rayong Hospital, and Aditya Agarwal, principal of Roland Berger. 

During the discussion, Anamnart underscored that hospital staff should get familiar with telemedicine, which helps reduce waiting time and lessen transportation time for patients.

The Bangkok Rayong Hospital Executive also recognised keeping patient information private by complying with the Thai government’s Personal Data Protection Act.  

“We will gain the trust of the patient if the onsite and the online consultation have the same outcome of treatment. There should be patient satisfaction because they can choose their desired appointment, whether to have a face-to-face consultation with the doctor or they want to have telemedicine at their home,” he said.

Contrary to the notion that telemedicine is taking a back seat during the reopening, Agarwal said they observed that “6% to 10% of the outpatient volume has been sticky with telemedicine.”

“The key therapy areas seem to be one of behavioural health, which includes mental health to a large extent, where there is a certain safety that the patient is seeing using telemedicine as a tool rather than a face-to-face meeting,” said Agarwal.

This was followed by Ernst & Young’s Asean Life Sciences and Health Care Leader Abhay Bangi’s speaking session, which tackled some of the challenges faced by Asian healthcare, including shortage of beds and clinicians, ageing populations, declining out-of-payment proportion, and disconnected data systems.

Aside from challenges, he also talked about the trends in technology within healthcare systems, such as AI-supported hospital diagnostics, remote patient monitoring systems, IoT, and sensors to help patients improve their health conditions.

With these trends and challenges, healthcare in Asia will experience changes in five dimensions, such as consumer perceptions and inventory of data infrastructure, which will keep up with the evolving nature of healthcare treatment.

“In terms of data, given the proliferation that we will likely see, in the coming eight to 10 years, there will have to be better practices linked to data management, generating insights from their governance and investment in security,” said Abhay.

In the context of challenges, Dr. Mohan Ravuru, director of clinical and medical affairs in the Asia Pacific Region at Abbott Singapore, discussed how businesses can protect themselves as Asia Pacific shifts from the pandemic to an endemic stage of COVID-19.

Whilst vaccines are available to reduce the severity of COVID-19, Ravuru indicated that testing is still an important process to determine the contagiousness of the disease. 

“I would like to also allude to the point that testing in the post-vaccination era will be required because there will be a significant number of partially vaccinated people losing antibodies over time, and also because there might be a small percentage of unvaccinated people,” said Ravuru.

One of the challenges in Asia Pacific healthcare is connecting data. Stella Ramette, director of customer relations and sales at InterSystems Southeast Asia, said this dilemma can be addressed by working with vendors.

“Now, it is very important to spring clean your data and to work with partners who have a proven track record to decouple your data so that you have control of your data, and so that your organisation's can have correct data anytime and anywhere. The data needs to flow seamlessly so that it's always ready for action and enables better decisions,” she pointed out.

Dr. Zaw Win Sandy, chief operating officer (COO) of emerging health at the Yoma-OUE Healthcare, Pun Hlaing Hospitals, discussed the Myanmar smart health community, which is shifting from a disease model to a whole wellness model.

“We will empower individual connected care and health informatics by delivering interoperable, frictionless, and seamless care across the spectrum of devices, whole primary, secondary, and tertiary care platforms through our virtual platforms,” she said.

To cap the summit’s first day, the second panel, moderated by Chris Hardesty, partner at Pureland Venture, focused on sustainable health system design for evolving demography. Joining Hardesty are Ravuru, Bangi, Thalia Georgiou, managing partner of healthcare advisory in the Asia Pacific at Asia Care Group Limited, and Manisha Kumar, COO of Healthcare Global Hospitals.

Kumar shared that the reluctance of practitioners in India to use technology to deliver treatment has “vanished,” allowing Indian healthcare to cater to thousands of more patients during the pandemic. 

Georgiou explained that universal healthcare in low-middle-income nations in Asia sees it as a “safety net” to provide for the most vulnerable within their population and protection against catastrophic ailments.

She suggested the need for public-private partnerships, new forms of financing, and impact investments as countries grapple with continued investment whilst there are “competing demands and potential recessions.”

“I think there's a great interest in looking at new ways of financing providers, so whether that's moving to performance-based pay, or capitation, or any other type of model as well. These are some of the things that we've noted are recurring, and certainly, governments are interested in exploring some of those themes in a bit more detail as we progress,” she added.

Watch here the recording of presentations.

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