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COLUMNS
Staying ahead of the healthcare game in Asia
Collaboration between healthcare leaders in the public and private sectors through funding and various training avenues is what will help the medical industry overcome their challenges.

Life expectancy has improved leaps and bounds thanks to advancements in medicine and medical technologies. However, issues around the declining median age working population, evolving diseases and the onslaught of an ageing population have become priority concerns for countries in Asia. To cope, efforts are being made to ramp up access to healthcare – ensuring that citizens are well taken care of and can live fulfilling lives.

As we look into increasing accessibility to medical care, it is important to recognise that healthcare institutions need to cope with factors that are aggressively challenging the industry. Healthcare service providers must juggle factors such as costs, resources, skills development and infrastructure. Partnerships between the public and private sectors are more crucial than ever to navigate these challenges for improved value-based health outcomes.

A piece of the puzzle lies with local governments

Local governments are actively taking steps to ensure their citizens are cared for by investing into their public and private healthcare system.

In Singapore, the government recently affirmed that they have commenced building and upgrading projects for medical facilities across the island at this year’s annual National Day Rally speech.1 Additionally, plans to improve financial support for long-term care through various schemes and policies were announced. This includes the Merdeka Generation Package which aims to assist local residences in their 60s to meet their medical needs and expenses.2 The package covers areas similar to that of the Pioneer Generation Package which was implemented four years ago for seniors aged 65 and above, as of 2014.3

At the same time, as Singapore evolves to adopt digital technology, initiatives such as the Agency for Care Effectiveness (ACE) have also been set up to drive better decision-making around clinically effective and cost-effective patient care through the use of technology.4 As part of the national health technology assessment (HTA), ACE aims to improve patient outcomes and healthcare value through health technology assessments to assist policy-makers, clinicians and patients to make better healthcare decisions.

Given the growing needs of the population in Singapore, it is predicted that the annual Ministry of Health (MOH) budget will be "at least" SG$13 billion by 2020 as it continues to subsidise healthcare for more people.5

Beyond Singapore, other ASEAN governments also recognise the need to improve financial support for long term care. For instance, talks with relevant stakeholders via the US-ASEAN Business Council helps the public and private sector collaborate to grant patients greater access to quality healthcare through investments made by both parties. Investments in the form of prevention at early stages of treatments can prove beneficial. Companies can also help policymakers by advising on the most effective use of their equipment and services and provide consultation on best practices.

The next clue lies with sharing

While government assistance is one aspect of being able to provide quality healthcare, a white paper published jointly by McKinsey and the Asia-Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed) identified professional education as a key gap in Asia-Pacific (APAC). Countries in the region often lack the necessary infrastructure to responsibly conduct training for simple and advanced procedural techniques to ensure safe patient access to required therapies. These circumstances have necessitated an increasing dependence on public-private partnerships as local governments seek to balance healthcare costs and access for their citizens.

The private sector, including medical solutions providers can help ensure that latest advances in medical sciences are highlighted through hands-on, multidisciplinary training programs on medical devices and procedures. In Singapore, Boston Scientific works with several leading public and private hospitals to build physician skills so that they are prepared to leverage the latest cutting-edge technologies to better serve their patients. This includes training initiatives around the first polymer-based, drug-eluting stent designed to treat and restore blood flow in the peripheral arteries above the knee. This is done through Centers of Education (COE) which are set up in collaboration with hospitals in Singapore to train physicians within APAC in the adoption of new technologies to address the disease state of cardiology patients. These COE initiatives have already been set up in Singapore at hospitals such as National University Hospital, Singapore General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

While the adoption of innovative technologies is imperative to the advancement of healthcare, the understanding of basic technologies must also be promoted within the region. In Vietnam, Boston Scientific organises several cardiology-related events and roadshows, most notably the National Angioplasty Summit. Through events such as the Summit, physicians learn about key interventional cardiology trends and the application of minimally invasive technologies through the presentation of international case studies by cardiology experts, which will help transform the lives of cardiac patients in the country.

Physical training sessions and workshops are not the only resources available. It is also crucial to have varied training options, especially when it comes to tackling challenges such as upskilling talent, busy schedules, and the rising cost of medical care. Countries such as Singapore are anticipating significant growth in healthcare workers by 2020.6 As Singapore prepare to address the changes in the industry, online education platforms are vital to enhancing training programs across the health care continuum.

Collaboration between healthcare leaders in the public and private sectors through funding and various training avenues is what will help the medical industry overcome their challenges and drive the acceleration of the adoption of new, less-invasive technology. The wheels have been set in place around the region to ensure that access to quality health care improves. It is vital that both the public and private healthcare sectors continue this commitment in working together to stay ahead of the healthcare game. This ensures that the best care is made readily available across generations for a better future

References:

  1. https://www.mfa.gov.sg/content/mfa/overseasmission/asean/press_statements_speeches/2018-01/2018-08/Press_2018-08-19.html
  2. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/national-day-rally-2018-pm-lee-hsien-loong-10630850
  3. https://www.pioneers.sg/en-sg/Pages/Overview.aspx
  4. http://www.ace-hta.gov.sg/about-us.html
  5. http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/singapore-budget-2018/govt-expenditure-on-healthcare-expected-to-rise-quite
  6. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/30-000-more-healthcare-workers-needed-by-2020-as-population-ages/3221526.html

Agnes Goh is the country director at Boston Scientific for Singapore, Brunei, Philippines and Vietnam.

 

 

 

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EDITORS' CHOICE  
COLUMNS  

APBN Editorial Calendar 2019
January:
Taiwan Medical tourism
February:
Marijuana as medicine — Legal marijuana will open up scientific research
March:
Driven by curiosity
April:
Career developments for researchers
May:
What's cracking — Antibodies in ostrich eggs
June:
Clinical trials — What's in a name?
July:
Traditional Chinese medicine in modern healthcare — Integrating both worlds
Editorial calendar is subjected to changes.
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