CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Singapore

BDO's Boon Kai Tan gives his take on healthcare's new normal

He says businesses can take advantage of BDO’s digital platform for their remote work arrangements.

Boon Kai Tan, Partner, Audit & Assurance at BDO LLP, has more than 15 years of experience in financial statement audit. He has handled special assignments, such as those relating to attestation services and as reporting accountant in connection with the issuance of perpetual securities listed on the Singapore Exchange.

Boon Kai served multinationals, government agencies and publicly listed companies in Singapore, spanning different industries, including manufacturing and healthcare. Besides the Lion City, some of his clients operate in South East Asia, Australia, Hong Kong, China, India and Europe.

Before joining BDO, Boon Kai worked with KPMG for over 10 years, including KPMG LLP (UK Practice). Apart from client-serving responsibilities, Boon Kai was also involved in conducting internal training.

In an interview following his recent stint as judge at the recent Healthcare Asia Awards, Boon Kai talks about the implications of COVID-19 to some of BDO’s healthcare partners, how industries are responding to the current situation, as well as the opportunities arising from the so-called “new normal.”

What are the implications brought about by COVID-19 for your business partners in Asia Pacific? What lessons can we learn from this experience?
Generally speaking, most businesses are suffering from the economic downturn caused by COVID- 19. Clients are seeing a reduction in their business activities and face challenges in managing their cash flows and operating costs. Specific to the healthcare industry, we observed that the impact of COVID- 19 can cut both ways.

While it is unsurprising to see an increase in patient workload which gives a positive impact to businesses, those private operators (for example, outpatient specialists) providing more advanced and complicated treatment to their more exclusive customers may see an unfavourable impact to their business.

Private operators that are very reliant on medical tourism will also be greatly affected by COVID- 19.

For example, a patient may decide to postpone their routine medical check-ups or non-critical/less invasive type of treatment/surgery either because it’s not possible for them to commute (lock down) or they just want to minimise their movement to avoid getting exposed to the pandemic.

The COVID-19 impact to all businesses is not homogenous. Some businesses are better prepared than the others in terms of their response to the disruption. The differentiating factor lies in the set-up of their internal processes and the DNA of their human capital.

Businesses that are resilient and adaptable, and those that have alternative business lines/products and are quick in embracing digital and IT transformation as part of their internal processes, are generally well placed (than the others) to deal with the curve ball thrown at them by COVID-19.

This would be one of the lessons we can learn from this experience.

How are healthcare firms coping with the pandemic situation? And what are some of the positive developments you’ve seen in the region?
The pandemic situation is very fluid and healthcare firms are busy monitoring on-going developments. They need to be very quick in making changes or implementing measures in their business premise in order to protect their staff, patients and the general public.

In terms of positive developments, it’s very encouraging and heartwarming to see people coming together to help people from all walks of life and at all levels—from individuals to businesses to governments.

We have logistics and manufacturing companies working very closely with one another to manufacture and deliver medical supplies and equipment to first respondents and medical workers. At the community level, people also volunteer to provide assistance to underprivileged families so that no one in the community is left behind.
With the reduced activities, there were also reports of improvement in air qualities of cities/countries within the region.

What are some of the healthcare projects in Asia Pacific that BDO is involved with to aid in the battle against COVID-19?
Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on specific projects due to client confidentiality reasons. Nonetheless, we expect healthcare projects specific to the battle against COVID-19 are those relating to procurement of medical supplies and equipment such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and laboratory test kits. We also expect the government to be prioritising such healthcare projects in light of current developments.

Where are the opportunities in the industry amidst the pandemic, and how can BDO help its clients take advantage of these as we wake up to a “new normal”?
There are various types of opportunities, which BDO can help its clients take advantage of, ranging from cash flow and working capital management to cyber security, IT transformation strategy, as well as assisting client with customised business continuity plans for various scenarios and providing clients with insights to tax measures aimed at providing economic relief for businesses and individuals.

Working remotely is potentially a “new normal” in the aftermath of the pandemic. Going forward, clients will be able to take advantage of the digital platform that BDO has. This platform allows BDO and clients to collaborate digitally in a secured environment and enhance customer experience.

This pandemic has also accelerated innovation opportunities. Governments provide funding for research and development, aimed at developing advanced medical technology, drugs and vaccines. BDO is well placed to provide clients with a wide range of services from audit, tax and advisory. In addition, we also assist our clients by performing independent verification of their funding claims so that clients can qualify for the government funding.

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