Could Asia’s HealthTech ecosystem be the key to caring for ageing populations?

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Healthcare systems around the world are coming under increasing pressure as chronic diseases become more prevalent, populations grow and age, drugs and treatments become more sophisticated (and costly) and the effects of modern lifestyles lead to greater instances of avoidable disease.

In Asia, the economic gulfs between, and even within, countries and the differing approaches to healthcare provision, mean patients will encounter wildly different experiences when it comes to accessing healthcare. With innovation in HealthTech rife, the future will be very different, but having all those involved in the healthcare, social, education and tech ecosystems working together is the key to a healthier future.

An age-old challenge

According to the United Nations, the global population aged 60 and above is growing at a faster rate than the total population. With an ageing population, difficult to treat and manage conditions such as dementia will increase the burden on health and social care systems. In fact, it is estimated that 46.8 million people worldwide currently have dementia and this is set to double every 20 years, reaching 74.7 million by 2030. The estimated cost of dementia was US$818 billion in 2015.

According to a report by McKinsey in 2015, it is said that by 2025, the APAC region will have 1.1 billion people older than 50 years of age which is more than two times the EU population today.

Ageing Asia

In 1950, the life expectancy in China was about 40, growing to about 70 today and still increasing. China’s population is benefitting from rising education levels and are being diagnosed and treated for common conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, which previously, they would not have known about. The considerable increase in requirements demands significant changes in healthcare provision.

More than a quarter of Japan’s population is aged over 65. By 2055, the figure will be closer to 40%, when the population is expected to have shrunk from 127 million to 90 million. Foreigners make up less than 2% of the population and increasing immigration to rebalance population demographics, or boost healthcare resources, is a very sensitive subject.

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In Singapore, the number of citizens aged 65 and above is increasing rapidly, as population growth slows. The size of this group of citizens doubled from 220,000 in 2000 to 440,000 in 2015 and is expected to increase to 900,000 by 2030.

With an ageing population comes the complex challenges for all of these countries of age-related health issues, as well as the social and economic impact on society of supporting and caring for the elderly, and ensuring they maintain a high quality of life. The solutions to these challenges are complex and diverse and span whole swathes of society and infrastructure, however, the potential role of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected e- and m-health solutions is exciting.

Impact of HealthTech

From 2015-2017, Asia Pacific’s HealthTech industry is expected to grow at more than 10% and Singapore’s Committee of the Future of the Economy report states that HealthTech is to be one of six growth clusters, as scalable healthcare technology solutions can help meet both its own domestic healthcare needs, as well as growing demand abroad.

A great potential use of HealthTech lies in its ability to better connect patients to healthcare practitioners and services – to deliver better patient outcomes in a more efficient and effective manner. When it comes to ageing patients, for example, the IoT can be leveraged to enable them to remain in their own home through in-home monitoring where relevant data is collected and shared in real-time to help them manage and prevent them needing to take up much-needed beds in hospitals or care homes. It also enables healthcare professionals to spend less time collecting and analysing the information about the patient and more time consulting with the patient to make appropriate recommendations.

Connecting patients and physicians online, or via mobile phones, can also speed up care, reduce resources and potentially increase the healthcare options available to people to meet their specific needs. Technologies that can better connect patients and their families with the care or monitoring that they need can also reduce the burden on families. This is particularly important in developing economies like China or India where migration to cities is physically distancing ageing parents from their children, increasing their vulnerability and dependence on the state.

The technology to enable such advances already exists, so it is the job of HealthTech innovators and relevant stakeholders, both incumbents and new entrants, to provide the data centres, analytics, infrastructure, processes and security needed to make it work on a grand scale. Security, in particular, is a key challenge given the highly personal nature of the data being captured, with most platforms offering insufficient threat detection and many users lacking the confidence to spot real threats.

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Many HealthTech innovators in Asia are tackling these challenges and launching solutions that have real potential. Our mission is to encourage and support them to foster a sustainable and vibrant HealthTech ecosystem across Asia in order to enable improved health outcomes. Some examples of successful start-ups across the ecosystem, designed to tackle the healthcare challenges of the elderly, include:

Curo (www.meetcuro.com)

Curo provides insights via a smartphone application using non-intrusive sensors in the home which aims to change the way the world looks at ageing-in-place and the relationship between family and their loved ones. The company shifts the focus away from emergency call-outs to better understand the wellbeing, care and ultimately the independence of the elderly.

Total funding: $ 1M Latest stage: Seed Country: Australia Founded: 2014

Nexus Healthcare (http://www.nexushealthcare.tv)

Nexus Healthcare develops technology to simplify and enhance the care and happiness of the elderly suffering from chronic diseases, through supporting clinicians and family caregivers. The company’s technology helps educate, motivate, manage and empower patients to achieve greater, more satisfactory outcomes, and help providers achieve greater efficiency, resulting in more sustainable practices.

Total funding: undisclosed Latest stage: undisclosed Country: Singapore Founded: 2012

Homage (www.homage.co)

Homage is a one-stop senior home care solution that combines trained and curated caregivers with smart on-demand technology, allowing seniors to age at home with grace, control and dignity. Homage is currently backed by top venture capital firms 500 Startups, Golden Gate Ventures and SeedPlus.

Total funding: $ 1.2M Latest stage: Seed Country: Singapore Founded: 2016

Neeuro (https://www.neeuro.com)

Neeuro believes that early diagnosis and early intervention are key mechanisms that can close the treatment gap for dementia. Neeuro’s brain training device enables consumers from young to old to monitor their mental state, memory, decision making, concentration and spatial awareness for greater appreciation of their mental abilities and any brain function changes.

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Total funding: undisclosed Latest stage: Seed Country: Singapore Founded: 2013

These are just a few regional examples. The good news is that innovation in the region is rife and we are confident that HealthTech will soon overtake FinTech in its attractiveness, interest and media profile. At Galen Growth Asia, our annual HealthTech CEO Summit has become the place for Asia’s most prominent HealthTech entrepreneurs to meet with over 200 healthcare influencers to facilitate HealthTech innovation’s role in shaping Asia’s healthcare landscape. If you missed last year’s event, don’t worry, our Asia HealthTech 2016 report gives you an overview of all of the trends, insights, session notes and HealthTech player profiles to bring you up to speed. We also recommend subscribing to our website for the latest news on the Asia HealthTech ecosystem.

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