Innovation in digital health is accelerating in the Asia Pacific region. With rising consumer demands, technology advancements, increased life expectancies, and more complex care needs, healthcare organisations are under pressure to deliver digital-first, seamless, and connected healthcare experiences.
But what are the trends shaping the future of healthcare delivery in the Asia Pacific? Which opportunities are ripe for innovation? And how can healthcare leaders help their organisations take advantage of them?
Over a decade ago, the world’s total data storage capacity was around 487 exabytes. By 2025, it’s estimated that we’ll be generating the same volume in under two days.
The healthcare sector is one of the most significant contributors to this data explosion, accounting for around 30 per cent of the world’s data volume. The increased use of MedTech devices, apps, monitoring, and wearable technologies means more data is flowing into healthcare organisations than ever before.
As data volumes continue to rise, so does our difficulty managing it. Healthcare organisations are searching for ways to integrate and harmonise their data to make meaningful connections that lead to actionable insights.
For example, it’s important to ensure that healthcare data is accurate, complete, and accessible in real-time. This is easier said than done and involves sophisticated methods to standardise and transform data so that it is universally understood.
One solution, according to Gartner, is an enterprise data fabric, a way to continuously identify, transform and connect data from different sources to discover relevant and valuable relationships.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to make care better, faster, and more accessible.
We have seen incredible progress in AI diagnostic applications to aid clinicians in interpreting complex data. This has helped to shorten the time to diagnose and treat cancer patients. Other AI tools, such as early sepsis detection, have helped reduce newborn babies' mortality rate.
However, concerns about patient safety and a lack of quality data have slowed the progress of AI initiatives. For example, it can be difficult for clinicians to be confident in AI algorithms without testing them in their own environments.
With healthcare catching up to other industries in maturity, data will be both a critical success factor and a barrier to the successful application of AI.
What do we need to get right before we can realise the full potential of AI technology? An essential prerequisite is for hospitals to build the right foundations at a technology level, like interoperability and data management.
This is already happening. McKinsey’s analysis of The State of AI found that healthcare organisations were leading the way in AI investment, with 44 per cent of organisations surveyed saying they have increased investment in AI in each major business function.
It’s also important to encourage innovation and create a data analytics culture. Clinicians must be willing to adopt digital systems and see the value in capturing and sharing data. Organisations must constantly answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” as they roll out their digital transformation strategies.
According to a Sage Growth Partners report, 51 per cent of healthcare executives say data integration and interoperability are the most significant barriers to achieving their strategic priorities related to data analytics.
This is due to the amount of data being created and the number of sources that data is flowing from. Medical devices, patient records, hospital databases, and data lakes all house crucial data within the healthcare system.
Accessing real-time data remains an uphill battle without a way to connect these siloed data sources. Without real-time interoperability, hospitals can only analyse data within one system at a time or after it is out of date. They cannot use all sources of information to get the complete picture when needed.
A persistent hurdle to interoperability is the existence of many healthcare standards such as HL7, DICOM, XML, and more. Systems using different standards are not able to communicate with each other efficiently. Many remote monitoring devices, for example, currently require their own data infrastructure. Because of the cost involved, this is a barrier to hospitals approving business cases.
But there is some good news. New standards such as Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and tools such as Application Programming Interfaces are closing the gaps created by the explosion of data and sources in the region.
If medical products include standards-based interoperability, for example, they can leverage existing infrastructure to make them easier and more cost-effective to deploy. Adopting a modern standard like FHIR, which works securely via the Internet, could make a real difference.
These approaches to interoperability make synthesising data from multiple sources much more easily achievable. And by making data more accessible, computable, and usable, you can use analytics to improve healthcare decisions and outcomes or drive digital engagement with patients.
A global pandemic and rising consumer expectations have made telehealth a permanent fixture of the healthcare landscape. And it continues to increase, according to McKinsey, which reported 38 times higher uptake in 2021 compared to the pre-Covid baseline.
Healthcare professionals in the APAC region are embracing this trend, seeing it as a valuable opportunity to improve access to healthcare. The HIMSS 2021 APAC Health CIO Report found that 88 per cent of participants would continue to leverage connected health technologies following the pandemic.
Telehealth is shifting from an isolated mechanism to deliver care outside the hospital to a more holistic, integrated model known as virtual care. Enabled by connected devices, information systems, and data, virtual care enhances the care experience and enables new models of care.
For example, you can significantly reduce the number of trips patients with chronic conditions must make to the hospital. This way, virtual care improves access to care while making better use of resources. Hospitals can invest in enhanced virtual care capabilities to overcome challenges like finding enough qualified staff or caring for a population living longer with more complex conditions.
The challenge is now how to seamlessly blend remote and in-person care seamlessly. Integrating telehealth into our digital systems and meeting individual care needs while improving patient access and experience is one of the critical challenges facing APAC healthcare leaders.
Over the last decade, rapid technological advances have led to the development of an increasing number of connected medical devices that generate, collect, analyse, and transmit data. Commonly referred to as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), these devices are revolutionising how healthcare is delivered.
From connected glucose and heart monitors for patients with chronic diseases to ingestible sensors revolutionising disease diagnostics and monitoring, the IoMT enables more efficient, accurate, and costeffective healthcare delivery.
This opportunity is not lost on Asian health professionals. According to an IDC study of Asia Pacific healthcare providers, nearly 75 per cent have already deployed IoMT solutions, and one-third have firm plans to implement IoMT solutions this year.
The proliferation of devices, while positive, is also causing an explosion of data. As the number of devices grows, so does their associated data and the systems that analyse and communicate that data. Healthcare organisations are now faced with a “data deluge” that may prevent us from unlocking the full value of this technology.
You need the right foundations to take full advantage of IoMT and other digital trends. This includes interoperability and data management capabilities, like those supported by an enterprise data fabric. And you need a culture that rewards data-driven innovation.
By bringing these elements together in their digital transformation strategies, Asian hospitals and other healthcare providers will find new ways to overcome the challenges they face.
To find out more, please download the free InterSystems e-book “5 Trends Shaping the Future of Digital Health in 2022 | Asia Pacific”