Investing in future of healthcare must consider 4 key needs
Increasing life expectancy and disease burden should prompt the healthcare industry to invest in scalable technology to reduce cost of care and workers’ burnout.
The healthcare industry is grappling with a significant challenge as life expectancy continues to rise. This demographic shift is leading to a surge in the burden of diseases, especially chronic illnesses, which now account for more than 75% of healthcare costs, according to Gerald Chan, co-founder of investment group Morningstar.
“If people are living longer, it is only to be expected that the financial burden for healthcare will increase exponentially,” Chan said at the Asia Summit on Global Health (ASGH) 2023 held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on May 17.
As people live longer, the prevalence of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disorders is increasing. These conditions often require long-term management and care, tremendously damaging healthcare systems.
Chan said he sees an explosive demand for healthcare services, which may also cause burnout for healthcare professionals.
Whilst bridging these gaps in healthcare delivery will require more digital tools, the problem is that, with several digital platforms being invented, he said it will take time to choose the right one.
The situation makes it necessary for healthcare technology innovators to consider some key mandates to ensure enhanced healthcare delivery.
Chan enumerated four of these key needs as: better patient experience and superior clinical outcome; lower healthcare cost and reducing utilisation; improving workload and workflow for care providers to reduce burnout; and improving healthcare access for all.
According to World Bank data, Hong Kong’s life expectancy is about 85 years, as of 2020. Common chronic diseases include cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes.
Chan said using scalable technology means that the “marginal cost of servicing the next patient must be lower than the one before.”
“We may never get to the same kind of economics as before where the marginal cost eventually becomes zero. But at least the marginal costs of services and more patients must be decreasing,” he said.
He cited that one of the case studies to invest in is Curai Health, which is an AI system that can perform as a primary care physician.
It can offer fast access to an affordable virtual, urgent, and primary care solution to all members and patients.
“This company started using synchronous text communication between patients and brought to the primary care physician and use that to deliver health care to the recipient,” said Chan.
Chan’s insights on the direct impact of increased life expectancy on disease burden and the need to prioritise investment in sustainable healthcare strategies served as a wake-up call to global healthcare sector leaders who were in Hong Kong for the second International Healthcare Week.
Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the medical fair also introduced discussions such as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area as an innovation powerhouse as well as exchanges on Chinese-Western medicine, aging, and women innovators.
This event was meant to boost Hong Kong’s status as an international research and development and business healthcare platform, where university research projects have been linked with potential investors and innovative medical devices promoted to international markets.
Over 2,500 participants from 40 countries and regions went to the Medical Fair, which also wooed 10,000 visitors from 56 countries and regions.