Singapore

Beyond COVID-19: Technological Advancements in Healthcare

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has vaulted our world years ahead in terms of customer and business digital adoption, in a matter of a short few weeks. Digital transformation in healthcare is seen as one of the positive advancements propelled by the virus outbreak. Asia’s Pacific Med Tech Sector is expected to grow from US$88 billion in 2015 to US$133 billion by end of 2020, with Singapore contributing US$10 billion.

Digital health has already been steadily garnering interest, even without the added impetus of COVID-19. In Singapore, investments in digital health startups have reached US$126.9 million in 2019 and this number is expected to grow in tandem with the increased need for remote medical services. Minister for Trade and Industry has also recognised Med Tech as an “important growth sector” for Singapore as a Smart Nation. As such, this serves as a timely reminder to business owners that embracing technology is no longer a choice but an indispensable force to harness in order to remain competitive.

Fundamental shifts in a post COVID-19 world

COVID-19 has accelerated the following trends which are reshaping the future of healthcare:  

Big Techs join the race

Across the globe, growing markets, expensive inefficiencies, and increased demand for better healthcare make the industry an excellent target for big tech companies globally. The first quarter of 2020 saw investments in digital health hitting a new high, with global technology giants from the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook leading the pack. With the virus outbreak causing distress to nations all over the world, investors reckon that healthcare offers great potential in the next five to 10 years and continue to deploy capital into medical technologies.

For instance, Google currently has 57 digital health startups in its portfolio, focusing on genomics, clinical research, insurance and benefits. Microsoft has also poured financial resources into its AI for Health Programme. This programme involves building critical education and data-driven technological solutions to help mitigate similar virus outbreaks.

Steps going forward

COVID-19 has introduced extraordinary challenges that the world was not ready to address. The challenge remains for business leaders to quickly absorb uncertainties and convert the crisis into an opportunity:  

  • Conduct a strategic review for the next six months and year ahead

Businesses should perform a strategic review, revealing areas with growth and profit potential. Conversely, non-performing business units with limited growth should be eliminated. From a healthcare perspective, doctors in private practice should take immediate steps to improve productivity and manage costs. For instance, upon the successful adoption of telemedicine, clinics may consider adopting a flexible staffing approach and the redeployment of staff. Clinics may look to HR platforms or job-matching services such as clinickaki.sg to streamline hiring processes. Additionally, when stocking pharmaceutical products, doctors can consider participating in “group-buy” of drugs to enjoy generous discounts. MaNaDr, a technology-enabled healthcare ecosystem provides such bulk purchase services under MaNaPharma, which has been purchasing on behalf of more than 50 per cent of general practitioners in Singapore to date.

  • Consider investments in businesses which offer complementary innovations

With COVID-19 as a catalyst, the healthcare industry is poised to evolve drastically. Upon identifying complementary innovations or trends that could increase value propositions, businesses may consider investments in growing sectors via mergers and acquisitions. Alternatively, competitive advantages may also be gained via effective collaboration, such as strategic alliances and partnerships. This can help existing businesses to capture new sources of value and leverage on the capabilities of their partners. However, it is important that the company assesses the risks and rewards carefully and consider involving the professional advisor’s help in evaluating the “right” investment and balancing the “calculated” risks.

  • Deployment of resources to build in-house capabilities and innovations

Alternatively, if the company has in its possession, the skills and capability to foray into R&D and digitalisation, there are several government grants available to build in-house capabilities or to develop digital solutions, such as the National Health Innovation Centre Grant Schemes, Enterprise Development Grant or the Productivity Solutions Grant. Thus, there is no better time to transform and digitalise than now.

Conclusion

Adapting to a virtual era requires a risk-taking and an adaptable mindset, it means letting go of existing business processes and trusting that a big investment will yield big results. Undoubtedly, emerging technologies in healthcare are both multi-faceted and complex, and can be overwhelming for businesses to decide which are worth investing in. However, they are all designed with a common purpose to improve patient experience, streamline physicians’ work, optimising work systems and reduce human error. As such, businesses lacking a growth mindset are most likely to fall behind. A reluctance to innovate puts any organisation at risk of failure, but refusing to progress alongside a rapidly evolving market would be even more devastating.

Therefore, companies must take strides towards embracing technology to remain relevant to the clients, and develop a growth mindset in order to survive and thrive.