COVID-19 is genuinely the pivotal change in our HealthTech ecosystem. In this large-scale pandemic, healthcare stakeholders such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices and other stakeholder organisations implemented drastic measures, including the rapid deployment of digital health tools, to mitigate fears and alleviate the burden on the healthcare systems.
The focus for this webinar was the Executive Insights: “ COVID-19 and the Acceleration of Digital Health in APAC ” co-authored and published by Galen Growth and L.E.K. Consulting. In this briefing document, we explored how emergency measures in Asia Pacific, as a result of COVID-19, has triggered the accelerated adoption of digital health tools, alongside other critical considerations by the healthcare industry in their planning for a “new normal.” With the need to adapt to the evolving digital health ecosystem, our panellists highlighted broadened opportunities of critical stakeholders to enable digitised diagnostic, patient and R&D centric solutions.
With Galen Growth doubling its focus on bringing the ecosystem together to thrive during uncertain times, this industry leaders panel moderated by John Cairns, Head of Multi-Channel and Digital Innovation Asia and Japan of Sanofi, highlights critical changes in the HealthTech ecosystem and the growth of specific sectors. The panel featured leaders at the forefront of COVID-19; Paula Amunategui, Regional Leader Marketing Excellence and Digital Innovation at Roche Diagnostics Asia Pacific; Miguel Rivera, Business Model Transformation Head of the Asia Cluster, Novartis, Stephen Sunderland, Partner, L.E.K. Consulting and Julien de Salaberry, CEO and co-Founder of Galen Growth.
This panel started by discussing the steps taken to leverage digital health solutions across all patient pathways in Asia-Pacific during COVID-19. Roche Diagnostics is currently focusing on in-vitro diagnostics (I.V.D.) testing, for patients with signs and symptoms of COVID-19 disease and living in affected areas. Being at the forefront of this battle comes with challenges faced by themselves and their customers. Despite challenges such as managing this surge in demand, the overwhelming patient flow to the whole intelligence around testing resulted in increasing opportunities to augment capabilities through partnerships. Merging digital and analogue also posed significant challenges in the diagnostics realm, as blood tests require optimal conditions and reliable instruments. The need to have reliable partnerships was reiterated, allowing Roche to build and extend their value chain for both their before and after testing stages.
Similarly to many industries, pharmaceutical companies are no stranger to the realisation that their conventional business model is proving inadequate as the outbreak is serving as a real catalyst for greater adoption of digital health. Digital transformation accelerated to new heights to ensure that everyone is well-educated and informed to support valued customers. With fearful patients staying away from doctors due to the high risk of contagion of the virus, Novartis saw an opportunity to explore various digital channels and increase collaboration with startups to ensure continued access to treatment for patients.
This pandemic threw many corporates into uncharted waters as many are unsure of the initial steps to take when facing a large-scale crisis. Julien de Salaberry of Galen Growth commented that the initial steps vary, depending on a corporate’s maturity. It is crucial to find the right leadership team with a sense of urgency that will brainstorm essential building blocks and source for the best partners to solve pain points and navigate the crisis. Emphasis was placed on finding the right partners to effectively and efficiently engage with the ecosystem. He also noticed a shift in dialogue from a global or regional level to an affiliate level as the pain points are genuinely the engagement with consumer, patients and Healthcare Professionals. Enabling affiliates to transform their business model to fit the new normal will create a resilient organisation that is less susceptible to a crisis like this.
Stephen Sunderland, Partner at L.E.K. Consulting, shared insights on the HealthTech ecosystem in China, whereby there were overwhelming changes to how digital engagement was permitted directly with consumers through telemedicine platforms. With digital engagement on the rise, this opened up the reimbursement system to Telemedicine providers in a few municipalities. In addition, large pharmacos are putting in place effectively e-commerce distribution via partnerships which are highly beneficial for chronic disease patients to receive their medications, without the risk of getting infected. From an ecosystem development perspective, he believes China has a certain level of scale and maturity around the digital health ecosystem coming into COVID and is undoubtedly looking forward to the wealth of innovation and business models arising.
Upon assessing the digital readiness of different markets in Asia Pacific, Paula Amunategui, Regional Leader Marketing Excellence and Digital Innovation at Roche Diagnostics Asia Pacific discovered that the quality of digital strategies implemented by governments varied from country to country. Where privacy and cybersecurity are concerned, it is essential that our data is protected, as stated in the WHO guide to building digital strategies. When individual players such as pharmacos, startups, insurance or telecom providers bear such great accountability when safeguarding data, governments must step up their strategies.
The evolution of go-to markets is inevitable. In the case for Miguel Rivera, Business Model Transformation Head of the Asia Cluster, Novartis, whereby the majority of customers are doctors and healthcare systems at the frontline, there is a need to be mindful of their needs, be it time or space. This gave rise to opportunities for Novartis to digitise their channels around online education and doctor communities. He believes that the mixed models are the future and that a complete digital engagement model will not be feasible in the long run. These views were supported by Paula Amunategui, Regional Leader Marketing Excellence and Digital Innovation at Roche Diagnostics Asia Pacific, as she mentioned a necessary shift to hybrid models as well, especially to reach remote geographies for their customers. This pandemic accelerated their ongoing efforts to move educational training and support to digital channels, thus creating a greater reach to customers.
The nature of this crisis has provoked a series of critical changes in the market by which some of those are regulatory changes. Julien de Salaberry commented, “Regulatory shifts will continue, as governments try to figure out how health systems are going to move forward. Majority of health systems are inadequate to deal with the pandemic and have to reflect on how to manage their limited budget. We will find significant differences in the delivery of primary health care administered in various countries, which will be more digital, as well as in tertiary care too. Hospitals are usually a one-stop-shop for everything that is not primary care, but what has been demonstrated by other countries is that this is not a viable business model for specialist care or tertiary care. Therefore we will see increased digital usage by providers. The urgency and obligation are on every stakeholder to change their game and deliver healthcare.”
The beauty of delivering healthcare is that in order to have a care continuum, different sectors are required to work together to establish a patient-centric experience. From Telemedicine, Home Delivery and E-prescription, Miguel Rivera, Business Model Transformation Head of the Asia Cluster, Novartis, believes that partnerships should happen, especially with pharma where the patient journey gets connected digitally through teleconsultation and e-prescription, and some regulations and reimbursement mechanisms are at stake.
The panel concluded that engaging with external innovation will help them be nimble, agile and fast, resulting in the increased success of innovation. Instead of having bilateral discussions with single startups, we will see the increasing connection of value propositions of digital health startups to give broader offerings to patients and healthcare providers. With the growing appetite of Ministries of Health, other governments departments, and large stakeholder groups to engage with the HealthTech ecosystem, this pandemic has indeed birthed the second era of Digital Health, which will thrive on innovation and partnerships.
Keen on finding out how various HealthTech startups and investors are coping in these uncertain times and get actionable vital takeaways? Join Galen Growth in the Together Apart Series: Building an Effective HealthTech COVID-19 Survival Strategy. With critical leaders, creatively destructing the HealthTech ecosystem from Japan, Malaysia, Switzerland and many more, coupled with global investor insights, join Galen Growth’s weekly series that will run up to June. To find out more about the thriving HealthTech ecosystem, please head to galengrowth.com.