For a significant portion of the global population, accessing healthcare can feel like navigating a complex maze with insurmountable obstacles. Major factors preventing them from accessing the most essential healthcare services range from proximity to healthcare facilities, affordability, and culture, to the lack of information from reliable sources of information, leaving them medically unattended.
Many rural residents in developing markets live without sufficient income and lack nutritious and adequate food, safety, and a low standard of living. They often get neglected from the benefit of the healthcare system due to a lack of accessibility and knowledge.
An interesting fact underscores the importance of ensuring access to quality healthcare for all individuals; we can potentially save the lives of more than 600,000 women each year, from pregnancy or childbirth complications, by providing access to skilled care and trained birth attendants.
This year’s World Health Day is themed “Health for All”, which bodes the question: “Is achieving health for all possible?” Against the backdrop of inequitable healthcare access and poverty, this might seem like an unconquerable challenge. However, the rapid evolution of healthcare in recent years proves otherwise.
Within a few years, health systems globally leapfrogged into a digital era, giving rise to virtual care models and greater collaboration among stakeholders. Furthermore, post-pandemic healthcare reforms are effecting positive change in a range of areas: from improving healthcare resources and securing the healthcare supply chain, to changing the way healthcare is delivered altogether.
These developments have given rise to several trends, providing players in the ecosystem with an opportunity to turn effective and affordable care for all into reality.
Driving Patient-Centric Innovations
The digital transformation in healthcare is increasingly focused on creating more people- and patient-centric health innovations. These innovations have breathed new life into the industry by empowering patients to take control of their health with personalized, accessible, and effective solutions.
For instance, we observe innovations in the patient support program to address more acute patient challenges beyond the primary care setting, including access, adherence, and convenience in the care given the limitations of the clinical profiles of drugs developed in research and development (R&D) labs.
When built with digital accessibility and the diverse needs of patients in mind, such patient-centric and technology-driven solutions can make a fundamental difference in delivering inclusive care. Simply put, this can be thought of as reaching more patients. Stakeholders in healthcare, traditional and emergent, therefore have an opportunity to make great strides in designing impactful and equitable health technologies by engaging patients and practitioners in the co-creation process.
We also witness the patient-centric approach to improving healthcare from the public sector side. Taking Taiwan as an example, the National Health Insurance program implemented by the Taiwanese government provides every citizen with a health insurance scheme that offers comprehensive medical services, including preventive care, outpatient care, inpatient care, and prescription drugs. Having run for more than 20 years, it continues to achieve satisfaction rates of over 70 percent among the Taiwanese.
Unlocking the Power of Partnerships
In healthcare, it is rare for any organization to own the full spectrum of care. This is further complicated by the fact that the pandemic has reset the way patients interact with healthcare providers, with higher expectations for personalization and engagement. This is where the partnership of various players across the ecosystem can make an impact.
For example, the synergy of online and offline channels is creating a more holistic and enriching care experience. To that end, integrating in-person consultations with telehealth services is paving the way for the creation of an ecosystem that revolves around the continuum of care, especially in some Southeast Asian markets where physician-to-population ratios are less than 10 physicians per 10,000 population count.
Similarly, another impactful example of partnership is between the public and private sectors in Malaysia. The National COVID-19 Immunization Program was set up to ensure vaccines were rolled out effectively, resulting in a vaccination rate of 80 percent among the adult population of approximately 19 million people within a seven months.
Opportunities for partnerships to improve healthcare are vast and diverse, going beyond traditional or governmental organizations. Nascent industries, such as HealthTech and InsurTech, can greatly reap the benefits of partnering with established players to accelerate distribution and facilitate reach.
Renewing the Focus on Primary Care
Capable of managing 90 percent of healthcare demands, primary care is a cost-effective way to address comprehensive health needs, strengthen the resilience of health systems, and achieve health for all in an inclusive and equitable manner.
Primary care treatment can significantly reduce the burden of chronic disease. With timely and appropriate primary care treatment, patients with chronic diseases can benefit from regular monitoring and management of their condition, which can prevent or delay the onset of complications. For example, poorly managed type-2 diabetes can lead to microvascular and macrovascular complications, including end-stage renal disease and amputations.
In Asia Pacific, there is a pressing need to rethink primary care delivery, given it holds one of the weakest primary healthcare systems globally. The good news is that the region is poised to make a change. This means leveraging digital platforms and virtual care models to connect public and private resources, engage communities, and extend reach to the last mile.
Singapore is a prime example of a market that is embracing this change, shifting the center of gravity in healthcare from acute hospitals to the community. Its Healthier SG program is rooted in a new approach that moves away from treating ailments reactively, toward more modern and preventative ways that ward off diseases before they become systemic.
This shift will ultimately see improved healthcare outcomes by way of financial policies and incentives, engagement with community partners, and patient-centered care plans.
DKSH is committed to contributing to “Health for All”, a shared goal that requires dedication and collaboration from all players to evolve and stretch the potential of emerging care models and solutions. We believe that adopting a patient-centric approach, building strong partnerships with relevant stakeholders, and focusing on primary care are all important components leading to a more sustainable and effective healthcare system.