Healthcare is gearing up to get tech upgrades. Source: Shutterstock

Healthcare is gearing up to get tech upgrades. Source: Shutterstock

Roland Berger leader says healthcare needs more technology

PEOPLE outside the healthcare industry tend to think that technology adoption is high among hospitals, device manufacturers, pharmacies, and so on. In reality, that’s far from the truth.

According to Forbes, although healthcare is reaching US$10 trillion globally, the industry lags behind nearly 80 percent of other industries in innovative technology adoption.

“This presents a white space opportunity for technological players in the healthcare sector, both incumbents and fast-rising startups, Roland Berger Indonesia Partner (Head of Life Sciences Southeast Asia) Yoshihiro Suwa told Tech Wire Asia.

Indonesia is at the heart of many interesting healthcare innovations in the Asia Pacific and possibly one of the most exciting testbeds of innovation in the region outside China.

It’s where telemedicine startups are collaborating with insurance companies and dominant superapp developers in the country.

The country is also home to artificial intelligence (AI) startups working with government agencies to make healthcare more accessible across its economic tiers.

Suwa, a witness to that innovation and an advisor to players in the industry believes that there is no shortage of digital technologies that can be applied for functions within the healthcare value chain.

“Among the red-hot digital technologies that are making a wave in the healthcare sector, a few such as telehealth, mHealth (mobile health), AI, virtual reality, and the blockchain are the strongest candidates in bringing about innovative disruption in the healthcare industry.”

However, Suwa adds that each of these technologies exist in different stages of maturity, which makes it difficult for players in the industry such as hospitals, pharmaceutical companies to evaluate each technology’s attractiveness on a standalone basis.

In fact, countless players globally are going through a gradual process of trial and error in their bid to identify and define the roles that these technologies will serve in the market.

No cookie-cutter approach for healthcare

“It is difficult to generalize about the entire healthcare industry. The players active in this industry constitute an incredibly wide-ranging group of companies, from manufacturers to service providers to insurers.”

Further, spotting opportunity in the market is complicated by the differences in health policy, regulations, and insurance regimes from one country to the next.

Thus, strictly speaking, opportunities for each suite of technology will vary by country and by player. Which means, healthcare companies need to evaluate each technology option against the goals and objectives of the business.

“Greenfield opportunities exist in many areas, but you should religiously evaluate the unmet needs in the area that your company is currently involved in. That should be the starting point when considering how and which digital technologies to best leverage.”

To put things into perspective, here’s an example: Singapore-based Raffles Medical Group recently began its digital transformation journey and focused on enhancing the quality of care and providing patients with a more connected experience.

“This allows doctors and healthcare professionals to achieve better health outcomes and ensures patients get seamless treatment,” Raffles Medical Group’s Commercial Director Jessica Tan told Tech Wire Asia recently.

Their choice of technology solutions reflected those goals and everything seamlessly fell into place as a result, despite the noise in the innovation ecosystem in the healthcare technology landscape.

Align technology with business goals

“Long-term inclinations of the healthcare technological pursuits fall roughly under three categories: better quality (improving quality of medical treatment), cost to zero (reducing costs of quality treatment so that any income level can receive it), and universal access (enabling all to receive quality treatment).”

Suwa believes that the megatrends of the healthcare industry are almost always in pursuit of these three objectives.

“Incumbents and startups alike should kickstart their digital health investment by aligning their business models and position along these three lines of healthcare objectives.”

According to Roland Berger’s management consultants, this frame of thinking facilitates business transformation that is guided on prioritization according to country, market players, field of medicine, and available technologies.

Using such an approach helps healthcare companies pinpoint the right technology solutions that help them on a more holistic level and accelerate their journey to digital maturity in a way that is most relevant to their business, most empowering for their staff, and most effective for their patients.

In conclusion, Suwa emphasizes that technology adoption in the healthcare space is lagging but that doesn’t mean everyone should just invest in any and every technology solution.

Given the various differences between companies in the healthcare space such as prevailing regulations, geography, and patient needs, players in the industry need to find technologies that best suit their goals and objectives.