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Data could help Asia cope with its ageing population
The elderly population in Asia is becoming one of the oldest in the world. What can be done to ensure their healthcare needs for quality of life are met?
by Rick Scurfield

Driven by advances in medical technology, pharmacology and a better-informed population, healthcare organisations are breaking barriers by leveraging data to introduce innovations in patient care delivery and improve clinical outcomes. A group that demands an immediate dose of this innovation is the ageing population in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to the Asian Development Bank, Asia-Pacific will soon have the oldest population in the world, projected to reach nearly 923 million senior citizens (65 and above) by the middle of this century. This shift in population structure will spur the growth of the digital healthcare market and demand better use of data to provide personalised healthcare services and enable self-care.

Keeping up with ageing

The modern medical technology (medtech) market presents a huge opportunity for healthcare organisations, with McKinsey expecting that market in Asia-Pacific alone to be worth US$133 billion per year in 2020 and becoming the second highest medtech market in the world after the United States.

One way medtech can help improve healthcare is by enabling remote health monitoring. Hospitals in China, starting this year, will be testing a system that allows real-time remote monitoring of outpatients suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. With the system developed by British software developer Medopad, patients can share the biometrics data collected by their wearables with healthcare professionals. Having such timely information allows healthcare professionals to intervene early to prevent relapse or worsening of illness, as well as enhance treatments. International Data Corporation (IDC) expects this to become a norm soon – it foresees data from wearable devices enabling healthcare professionals in China to deliver personalised nursing care plan by 2021.

Besides improving patient care, medtech innovations can also help improve patient experience. In the Philippines, some hospitals have digitised the manual paperwork for health insurance claims with Stash’s platform. Since the platform eliminates delays caused by fragmented operations of different healthcare providers in the country, claims can now be processed as soon as they are submitted, instead of taking months to do so. This not only improves the patient satisfaction, but also allows staff to be more productive and better focus on patient care.

Big data, big change

The medtech industry will create an abundance of data. If leveraged correctly, the insights gleaned could revolutionise patient care and realise the promise of precision medicine. Case in point: the artificial-intelligence (AI)-powered Singapore Eye LEsioN Analyser analysed half a million retinal images to learn how to quickly and accurately detect eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Mercy Technology Services, for example, is using all-flash storage to enable physicians to remotely monitor patients with chronic diseases post-discharge via telemedicine. Since this allows early detection of warning signs of relapse, it helps healthcare professionals intervene before the illness worsens and requires the patient to be readmitted. In addition, the healthcare organisation is leveraging all-flash storage to accelerate analytics. With the turnaround time for queries and reports reducing from six hours to one hour, physicians can identify trends and make critical medical decisions faster to deliver higher quality patient care.

Redefining patient care

Healthcare institutions are becoming armed with increasing amounts of information. But to fully benefit from those data, Asia-Pacific’s healthcare institutions will need to partner with technology experts to devise innovative ways to deliver faster as well as more tailored and effective care for the ageing population.


Rick Scurfield is senior vice president of global sales at NetApp




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