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Asia-Pacific patients increasingly prefer digital healthcare. What's the right way forward?

From artificial intelligence to cloud-based data analytics, digital solutions are driving better patient outcomes in the Asia-Pacific healthcare system

11 November 2021
Female Doctor Wearing Scrubs In Hospital Corridor Using Digital Table

Deploying digital solutions to improve patient outcomes without straining already thin budgets is a dream and a challenge for Asia-Pacific's healthcare system. 

The technology that enables these outcomes is already here—and patients are already using them in greater numbers. 66% of consumers in Southeast Asia already prefer remote video-call consultations over face-to-face consultations with doctors, according to VMware's Digital Frontiers 3.0 Study.

Most medical devices can now connect to the Internet and to each other, enabling increased patient data collection that in turn drives demand for secure collaboration and robust analytics. The Electronic Health Records (EHR) market will witness the fastest growth in Asia-Pacific, with a forecast CAGR of 5.7% until 2023. 

Remote consultations and health records aren’t the only aspect of healthcare undergoing digitalisation. Indeed, a number of trends are driving steady digitalisation in the medical system, from top to bottom:

  • Healthcare administrators seek more value from digital, which improves healthcare systems/operations and drives cost efficiencies;
  • Governments seek digitally-driven healthcare responses, such as Thailand’s Siriraj Connect and Singapore’s Tan Tock Seng’s C3 System; and
  • Aging populations seek more accessible healthcare services—cumulative healthcare expenditure on geriatric populations from 2015 to 2030 in APAC is expected to exceed $20 trillion.

Most promising of all, digital technology can address concerns from both sides of the patient vs. care provider divide. With healthcare digitalisation in full swing, patients can enjoy better and faster services; practitioners can experience far more efficient workflows. 

As we’ll see in the following examples, digital tools are key to improving patient outcomes and meeting stakeholders’ demands, in more ways than one can imagine. 

1. Drive improved patient outcomes with data analytics

Young pediatrician and little girl patient using digital tablet

Given the increasing pressure to reduce costs, enhance patient outcomes, and improve the bottom line, healthcare organisations are increasingly turning to analytics to support financial and clinical decision making. 

The APAC healthcare analytics market, worth USD 2.15 billion in 2021, is estimated to grow into a USD 5.30 billion market by 2026 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.85%. 

This development couldn’t have come at a better time: healthcare organisations are collecting more and more data, but often lack the tools to transform them into actionable insights. “Too many health organizations are sitting on a gold mine of data and are ambivalent about what to do with it,” Zuellig Pharma CIO Maikel Kujpers explains. “The valuable and vital information becomes worthless if it is untouched and unanalyzed—keeping us theoretically rich in information but poor in applied knowledge and understanding.”

Today, all this raw data can be crunched by powerful data analytics tools like AI and machine learning advancements like predictive modelling, which allow healthcare workers to “foresee” potential anomalies or abnormalities from an individual patient level to an aggregated level. 

As the owner of the Asia-Pacific region’s largest SAP customer installation, Zuellig Pharma has first-hand experience in the transformative power of analytics in healthcare. The data analysis provided by their new system allowed the company to predict results for many of its operations, from patient care management to logistics. 

To get there, Zuellig Pharma needed to migrate to a new SAP system, which offers a faster database to manage its raw data with artificial intelligence (Al) and machine-to-machine (M2M) learning applications. T-Systems helped Zuellig Pharma migrate more than 10,000 users and more than 1 million SAPS to the SAP system within nine months.

2. Improve patient experience by eradicating data silos

Doctor working on a digital tablet with digital background

Data silos are collections of data held by one group that can’t be easily or fully accessible by other groups in the same organisation. Healthcare systems are especially vulnerable to siloes—unsynced patient data can lead to misdiagnosis, incorrect dosages, and other negative repercussions for patients and providers alike.

Silos can be caused by any number of factors. According to one Philips report, many of these challenges prevent healthcare providers from adopting digital health technologies and can ultimately lead to silos such as:

  • Difficulties in data management (41%)
  • Lack of interoperability across technological systems and platforms (39%)
  • Lack of training to fully utilise digital technologies (30%)

For instance, a typical healthcare-delivery organisation may have dozens of applications running at the same time, with inefficient data sharing between each. Ongoing problems in integration can create havoc in a hospital: causing mistrust of data, generating confusion surrounding clinical and hospital operations, and making it more difficult to relay accurate information and financial counselling to patients.

Problems like these are ideal for solutions like SAP for Healthcare, which can solve data silos across functions as diverse as patient care, revenue cycle management and operations.

In Southeast Asia, T-Systems helped two different healthcare facilities implement SAP Healthcare, to striking effect. Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara’s implementation of SAP ERP and SAP Patient Management and SAP Cerner i.s.h.med solution delivered improved patient experience and safety with a reliable single source and real-time visibility.  

Raffles Medical Group similarly implemented SAP ERP and SAP patient management to meet their need for a tightly-integrated system across entities and departments. The SAP installation proved crucial to implementing Raffles’ patient-centric approach, by creating a unified view of operations for hospital employees and management.

The system eliminated data duplication, reducing time wasted on cross-checking documentation; it also allowed providers to quickly aggregate and analyse clinical data, enabling swifter decision-making. As a result, Raffles patients enjoy more responsive and personalised communications and services.

3. Future-proof operations by switching from legacy systems to cloud

Female doctor working on distance patient consultation

Due to budgetary constraints or institutional inertia, many healthcare facilities’ systems are stuck in the last century.

A 2020 HIMSS Cybersecurity survey found a vast majority (about 80%) of reporting healthcare facilities were still using legacy systems, including Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows XP. This is a problem in more ways than one. 

For starters, legacy healthcare systems run on older platforms that often can’t be updated and are highly vulnerable to hacking. They are difficult to maintain, and require IT professionals with niche skillsets to maintain outdated tools and patches.

Legacy systems also can’t scale up efficiently when growth is required. To address these obstacles, organisations with legacy systems often rely on a patchwork of temporary solutions—all of which add up to a very high-risk system environment.

To improve healthcare while lowering costs, organisations require insights driven by Big Data, real-time metrics, integrations, and artificial intelligence. Legacy healthcare systems and records cannot offer these insights. According to Accenture, the continued reliance of legacy infrastructure is a major hurdle to cloud adoption.

A guided approach to migration is necessary to migrate resources from legacy to the cloud. Mitra Keluarga in Indonesia switched from an on-premise solution to the AWS Cloud after experiencing scalability limitations, skillset, quality, and frequent downtime issues with their on-premise data center—all issues that were getting in the way of their ambitious expansion plans.

T-Systems stepped in, developing the migration blueprint for Mitra Keluarga’s SAP and non-SAP systems. A “lift & shift” approach was implemented, moving the hospital’s existing applications and data to the AWS Cloud with minimal modification. T-Systems developed the AWS infrastructure set-up and installation of SAP systems, then followed with a transfer of data from existing systems.

As a result, Mitra Keluarga was able to migrate to stable, fail-safe, and scalable cloud-based infrastructure that provided a broader runway for further digitalisation in the future. The hospital’s operations were not inconvenienced in any way during the migration process—in fact, T-Systems managed the operation at an extremely fast turnaround time of three months!

Conclusion: the future of healthcare digitalisation

In coming years, the healthcare tech landscape will diversify even further.

Increased uptake of technologies like telemedicine will make it possible for people to enjoy dedicated medical attention from the comfort of their own homes—reducing potentially infectious contact and improving wait times. Data analytics will contribute to more accurate diagnoses and treatments.

Developments like these will massively increase consumer uptake of digitalised healthcare. Healthcare platforms like Ping An Good Doctor and WeDoctor already have millions of registered users, driving their valuations sky-high. Tencent’s WeDoctor, for instance, has an estimated valuation of $6.8 billion, 24 times its price-to-revenue ratio. 

Amidst this meteoric growth, healthcare decision-makers will also experience rising concerns about cybersecurity. Now that so much of healthcare is underpinned by online technology and services, healthcare organisations will need to pay closer attention to cybersecurity developments that could impede their operations.

These changes are already well under way. Digital transformation allows actors in the healthcare industry to derive maximum benefits from quickly evolving technology like IoT and the cloud. However, to navigate through challenges that can get in the way of delivering an optimal patient experience, it’s natural to need a hand. 

For more expert advice on safe digital transformation at scale, reach out to us at T-Systems.

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