Asia has seen rapid growth over the years when it comes to its healthcare industry. Several Asian countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Taiwan, are known to be home to medically advanced institutions, and have drawn patients from around the world through their position as medical tourism hubs.
The rapid growth of the healthcare industry in Asia is largely due to the emergence of healthtech, which is the use of technology to advance the practice of medicine. Healthtech, which constitutes technological advancements such as medical wearables, centralised databases, medical applications, artificial intelligence (AI), and mobile advancements, among others, is a constantly growing and evolving industry.
The digital healthcare industry in Asia Pacific is predicted to be one of the fastest growing in the world, and it is estimated that by the year 2025 it will be valued at US$80.7 billion. The bulk of this projection is attributed to the aging population in the Asian region, who will significantly benefit from the advancement of digital healthcare as it offers them convenience and ease in seeking assistance from medical professionals.
Wearable medical devices
Today, we are already seeing many patients in Asia with pre-existing conditions, especially the elderly, being equipped with wearable medical devices. For example, patients diagnosed with diabetes are fitted with continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), small, wearable devices that allow for the constant monitoring of a patient’s blood sugar levels. This information can be easily transmitted to one’s smartphone or smartwatch and shared with medical professionals or the patient’s carer.
It is understood that medical wearable devices, which are fitted with microchips and sensors, will reach US$61.4 billion globally in the next five years. It is expected that Asia Pacific will account for approximately US$3.2 billion of the market share, which will be significantly contributed to China, India, and Japan. While the figure appears small, the CAGR is indicative of a 25.52% growth from 2020, reflecting significant growth in the Asian market. Globally, a 10-year forecast (2018–2027) of the industry’s growth shows a CAGR of 13.8%, with North America being a major contributor to the growth of this industry.
However, these figures are predicted to see further growth, especially since the digital healthcare industry within the Asia Pacific region, in both developed and developing countries, has seen exponential growth due to the prevalence of COVID-19.
Many Asian countries have also deployed telemedicine as a way to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. Mobile applications, such as Dr World, Doctor Anywhere, Halodoc, and others, have made waves across the region as they have allowed people to receive assistance from doctors via video calls. However, this is not a recent phenomenon as telemedicine has gained traction in the past few years, and COVID-19 has further developed its growth.
Back in 2018, it was reported that Halodoc, a telemedicine application from Indonesia, was receiving “several thousand consultations a day” and had 2 million users. Today, in the face of the pandemic, they have more than 7.2 million users, with a 300% increase in their mobile application downloads. Similarly, another telemedicine application, Alodoktor, reported an increase of 50% in its users.
To ease the bottleneck that its virtual doors were facing due to the pandemic and the Indonesian government’s urging for its citizens to avoid going to hospitals unless it is an emergency, the team at Halodoc created a dedicated COVID-19 section, which featured the use of an AI chatbot to assist patients who were worried about COVID-19. The use of this technology allowed Indonesians to receive the information they needed instantly, without having to wait for a doctor to attend to them, thus freeing up doctors to deal with more important cases.
The prevalence of telemedicine is not just limited to Indonesia or its neighbouring countries, but is also happening across Asia in developing countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, and others. Some of these countries may be new to the concept, such as Vietnam, but they have seen a significantly positive reception from their people, signifying the potential of this generally untapped industry.
When it comes to the use of AI, this technology is not just limited to chatbots or mobile applications. In fact, in the Philippines, AI has been utilised in the development of a Robot Roving Doctor (Rovidoc) in place of a doctor, as the country has tried to minimise COVID-19 exposure for its doctors.
Interestingly, in Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the virus, the government launched a hospital that was operated by robots and utilised internet of thing (IoT) devices. Deploying AI, patients wore wearable medical devices that reported their temperature and vital stats, and these were monitored by robots that alerting the human medical team if anyone needed immediate medical attention. Disinfecting, medicine dispensing, food services, and even information services were all provided by the robots, thus limiting any unnecessary human exposure to the virus.
The success of this field hospital in China, as well as the Rovidoc in the Philippines, is indicative of things to come across Asia as technology develops. As it is, we are already seeing the use of AI in surgeries, and in aiding doc- tors to make medical diagnoses quicker and more efficiently. With the presence of 5G technology and IoT, the intricacies surrounding the use of AI in the healthtech industry will become further refined and more widespread.
Healthtech is the future of medicine
Moving forward, Asia will witness phenomenal growth and transformation in its healthcare industry as technological advancements pave the way for the growing healthtech industry. The reception of these upcoming changes will have been unintentionally tested during the pandemic, which has seen many, young and old, embrace and adapt to the changes in the healthcare industry.
About GMO Research
GMO Research offers an online research solution platform that allows access to multi-panel and multi-country online panel network – Asia Cloud Panel. Constantly expanding in Asia and globally, Asia Cloud Panel consists of over 33 million online consumer panelists across 15 APAC markets, ranging from consumers to CEOs. GMO Research is a part of and backed up by GMO Internet Group – one of the largest Internet Conglomerates in Japan specializing in a number of Internet-related technologies. GMO Internet group has the number one Japanese market share in Internet Security, Payment Processing, E-Commerce Solutions, Web Hosting, Domain, and FX Trading. And covers Web Infrastructure & E-Commerce, Internet Media, Internet Securities, and Social Media and Smartphone platform.