Healthcare IT in Asia

Learning from the Global Experience

Steven Yeo

Steven Yeo

Vice President and Executive Director HIMSS Asia Pacific Singapore.


Different countries in Asia are facing different challenges and will need to respond accordingly.


What are your views on Asian healthcare IT sector?

The most important issue facing the healthcare IT sector in Asia is to ensure that quality of care is achieved through effective diagnosis, patient compliance and avoiding medical errors. In addition, the Asian healthcare IT sector must improve access to care in remote communities, or emerging and underdeveloped economies, with enough hospitals and care professionals to meet healthcare demands.

With an ageing population across the globe and especially in the Asia Pacific region, the healthcare sector will need to focus on reducing patient care and administrative costs for the healthcare system.

Thus, it is imperative that healthcare organisations recognise these issues and respond with effective processes and technologies for delivering superior care. This includes the widespread adoption of healthcare IT systems to deliver improvements in the quality and accessibility of care, while also lowering costs.

As the region is home to more than half of the world’s population, and with the Age Wave, (fast forward into the next 15 to 20 years)—there are 3 distinct markets for Health IT to address:
• The first is Chronic Diseases / Ageing management (Personal Health Records / PHR)
• The second is Modernizing the Point of Care (Electronic Medical Records / EMR)
• And the third is Population Health and Bio Surveillance (Electronic Health Records / EHR).

These pose the following threats as well as opportunities:
• Incredible healthcare demand is certain
• Healthcare Infrastructure cannot be built fast enough
• The only way out of system failure is increased efficiency—this can be achieved through the growth of the Healthcare Information Technology adoption.

Do you think Asia is ready to accept the changes in technology?

Developed countries in Asia are undertaking national initiatives to develop national EHR policies, with hospitals focussing on digital integration and operational efficiency. These initiatives are being undertaken with the ultimate goal of improving productivity and quality of care, while also helping to reduce overall healthcare costs.

As for the developing economies in Asia, they are also working on healthcare reform and are building their infrastructure to meet the needs of the new demands in healthcare. Some of these economies, such as China, may eventually leap-frog the rest of the world through the adoption of new technologies.

What is the scenario in Asia?

Different countries in Asia are facing different challenges and will need to respond accordingly.

For example, due to their rapidly ageing populations, countries such as Australia, Japan and Singapore are already placing a focus on the ‘silver industry’, which is potentially one of the fastest growing markets. In such countries, PHRs and home-care initiatives are part of the national focus to empower patients to have the same level of care at home, while bringing down costs and improving the quality of care beyond the hospital itself.

The scenario for China is slightly different. The country is likely to leap-frog the rest of the world in healthcare IT adoption if they are able to do the following:

• Learning quickly from the international / global experience
• Overcoming the resistance to change
• Knowing how to manage change
• Developing more expertise in these areas of need.

Other countries like Malaysia and Thailand are focussing on Telehealth and improving primary care by providing accessibility to remote communities and building healthcare infrastructure.

How do you see the adoption of PHRs and EMRs in Asia? Do you think Asian hospitals are self sufficient to shift toward the trend?

EMRs and PHRs are still at a very early stage of adoption both globally as well as in Asia.

Asian hospitals can learn from international HCO experiences through successful EMR implementation. They will also need to work with national health authorities on policies and EHR /EMR plans pertaining to legal, standards and infrastructure matters.

What are the areas of Healthcare IT in which do you think improvement is required?

It depends to a great extent on the goal and plan of each hospital. Having said that, hospitals should focus on managing change, and measure the business value that Healthcare IT brings to its operations. Developing KPI(s) to measure Access to Care, Workflow Optimisation, Employee Productivity and Patient Satisfaction are also important contributing factors to the success of Healthcare IT adoption in a hospital environment.

Events such as HIMSS AsiaPac09, happening from 24–27 February 09 in Kuala Lumpur, provides health IT stakeholders with a platform to connect and exchange ideas in order to help advance quality healthcare delivery through the use of IT. It is a place for intensive learning and knowledge exchange and networking with leaders from healthcare, government and IT.