How digital can transform healthcare in Asia for millions of people

indonesia1

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Edward Booty, CEO, Allied World Healthcare & Logan Ansell, Senior manager, strategy and partnerships, Allied World Healthcare


More than half of the people on Earth still don’t have full coverage of essential health services and almost 100 million people fall into extreme poverty from paying for healthcare. In South-East Asia, while some positive progress has been made in achieving universal health coverage (UHC), it isn’t happening fast enough.

In the region, 62% of deaths are now due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which primary care systems are poorly positioned to address. Traditional service delivery and financing models often fail to adequately serve residents of remote communities. Data indicates that rural populations of South-East Asia still face persistent challenges in accessing essential health services compared with their urban peers. To overcome these challenges and reach universal health coverage in the region, players in the healthcare system must fully embrace digital technologies to move beyond experimentation and small-scale pilots.

Why digital health can expedite UHC progress in South-East Asia

Digital health solutions offer tremendous advantages for resource-constrained health systems in rural and remote areas of low and middle-income countries in South-East Asia striving to achieve UHC 2030 and SDG targets. Digital health allows systems to take advantage of existing resources and infrastructure, providing more services directly in communities via telemedicine approaches and task-shifting strategies.

Digital technologies are also well suited for preventative approaches, including wide-scale screening or education campaigns. India’s ambitious national goal of screening every citizen under 30 using an mHealth (mobile health) device for risk factors related to leading NCDs is a prime example. Furthermore, by integrating digital health solutions, governments and the private sector have increased access to rich, quality data to accurately inform the allocation of scarce resources – and leapfrog the challenges of many developed health systems.

We recently spent time with our community-based teams in the Philippines and Cambodia, where we’re partnering with the government, healthcare providers and the private sector to deliver affordable healthcare in remote communities. These are regions characterized by tremendous challenges in last-mile delivery of essential health services. We know from our research that the barriers are not limited to out-of-pocket payments, but that the cost of travelling long distances to seek care, along with lost wages from missed work, can be equally debilitating.

Our approach involves empowering community members (a team of women in each village who we call access managers) to create individual health profiles of residents using proprietary offline-first apps. These access managers are then able to conduct tailored public health engagement and outreach campaigns, as well as ordering and delivering medicines and health services at affordable prices directly within the communities themselves. This enables local residents to overcome many of the traditional barriers to healthcare access, all while relying on support from a local peer to navigate the system. By merging mHealth solutions with an embedded community presence and last-mile delivery, we are able to create a holistic approach that overcomes some of the common limitations of telemedicine initiatives.

Under this innovative model, we recently engaged and onboarded 42,000 individual residents in two rural and remote municipalities in Western Visayas, Philippines. The resulting community health profile indicated that access to vitamin A supplementation was a serious challenge in these areas. Vitamin A supplementation is an evidence-based practice which reduces mortality and promotes proper development in infants and children. In response, we worked with the local government and NGO partners, to facilitate a programme to address this gap, using our detailed community data to identify the specific households that would benefit. As a result of these efforts, 1,221 infants aged 6-11 months old and 7,714 children aged 12-59 months were provided no-cost access to this vital intervention – 100% coverage.

These recent visits were a time to reflect on strategies to invigorate and enable faster adoption of digital health technologies, to address the persistent subnational health inequities which prevent many citizens from accessing essential services. What’s clear is that digital health is critical to hastening UHC progress in low and middle-income countries, but stakeholders need to work together to address some surmountable challenges.

How to overcome the barriers and achieve UHC faster

1. Driving system change vs fragmented solutions

While it’s fantastic to see digital health players address different unmet needs in healthcare systems, such as health worker training and mHealth applications, this can result in fragmented approaches which fail to create the systemic change needed to achieve UHC. Digitally enabled health systems are also dependent on telecom companies and the monopolistic nature of this industry in many markets creates an additional barrier.

Standardization is vital to scale and each sector must learn to adopt a common framework for technology development, allowing transferability across national boundaries. At Allied World Healthcare, we have adopted all global healthcare data standards, but the regulatory environment around areas such as e-prescriptions and telehealth means our solutions have added complexity. A recent review found that more than 150 countries have absolutely zero mHealth regulations, for example. A robust regulatory environment with global standards helps to promote, rather than inhibit innovation, fosters consumer trust and addresses legitimate concerns about data privacy and product safety.

2. Designing health apps for access anywhere

Internet penetration is now at 63% in South-East Asia, with 415 million people having internet access – up from 380 million a year ago. But rural communities are at risk of being left behind as internet access often ranges from poor to non-existent in these areas. Digital literacy amongst those with more healthcare needs, such as older people, is still lacking. In addition, accessing the internet is often expensive for those people living in rural and remote areas who might benefit most from digital health solutions

This notion is supported by data from rural India which suggests strong links between mobile phone ownership and health care access. Among the findings, poorer rural households without mobile phones experienced more adverse health events. A more enabling and competitive market among telecom providers in rural areas would help to reduce monopolistic practices, promoting technology diffusion and reducing prices for consumers.

Our determination to connect the unconnectable means we have had to embrace offline working for novice tech users. This has led to peer-to-peer syncing of devices, simpler user interfaces and using video instead of text. For any major player in this space, designing solutions for the limitations of the last-mile is of paramount importance. The digital divide must not create new forms of health inequities.

3. Power through data-driven insight into communities’ needs

As Steve Jobs once said: “You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.” Yet, too often digital health solutions are not fully utilized as there’s been insufficient focus on understanding the real needs of communities and healthcare professionals.

India

What is the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit 2019?

Under the theme, Innovating for India: Strengthening South Asia, Impacting the World, the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit 2019 will convene key leaders from government, the private sector, academia and civil society on 3-4 October to accelerate the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and boost the region’s dynamism.

Hosted in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the aim of the Summit is to enhance global growth by promoting collaboration among South Asian countries and the ASEAN economic bloc.

The meeting will address strategic issues of regional significance under four thematic pillars:

• The New Geopolitical Reality – Geopolitical shifts and the complexity of our global system

• The New Social System – Inequality, inclusive growth, health and nutrition

• The New Ecological System – Environment, pollution and climate change

• The New Technological System – The Fourth Industrial Revolution, science, innovation and entrepreneurship

Discover a few ways the Forum is creating impact across India.

Read our guide to how to follow #ies19 across our digital channels. We encourage followers to post, share, and retweet by tagging our accounts and by using our official hashtag.

Become a Member or Partner to participate in the Forum’s year-round annual and regional events. Contact us now.

When looking at our community-level data, a village’s health needs can be vastly different from another right next door. For example, our profiling has uncovered instances where Village 1 has an extremely high prevalence of diabetes, which is broadly non-existent in Village 2 next door, where we see that kidney disease is rampant. Analysing relevant data and uncovering the right insights will drive much more targeted and effective health solutions for local communities.

It’s time to embrace digital health fully

Governments and other stakeholders in South-East Asia have a tremendous opportunity to embrace digital health and leapfrog the long-standing barriers to UHC that exist in previous service delivery models. Government spending on digital health produces an outsized return on investment, providing a clear incentive for investment in such solutions. The private sector is already leading the way with scalable, innovative approaches and disruptive technologies that are poised to change the way that healthcare is delivered in the region. What is now required is full support, cooperation and investment from the public sector. This will fully unlock digital health’s potential as the driving force behind the region achieving its UHC 2030 goals.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Trump’s Syrian hit the softest option vis-a-vis Russia

Crimean crisis: not enough to slow down European indices

The Chinese solar panels suddenly became too cheap for Europe

Main results of Foreign Affairs EU Council, 16/07/2018

The EU seals CETA but plans to re-baptise TTIP after missing the 2016 deadline

EU integration: MEPs want to end permanent opt-outs from EU law

UN rights chief ‘appalled’ by US border detention conditions, says holding migrant children may violate international law

Consultant in Forensic Technology – 1969

EU summit: No energy against tax evasion and fraud

How our food system is eating away at nature, and our future

Peace operations benefit from improved cooperation between the UN and troop-providing countries, says peacekeeping chief

Memoirs from a unique trip to China: “my new old dragon” (Part II)

UN and African Union in ‘common battle’ for development and climate change financing

The Bavarians threaten Berlin and Brussels with immigration crisis

EU Commission announces Safe Harbour 2.0 and a wider Data protection reform

Praising Roma’s contributions in Europe, UN expert urges end to rising intolerance and hate speech

Brexit: MEPs concerned over reported UK registration plans for EU27 citizens

This Chinese megacity is building a giant waste-to-energy plant

Here’s how we reboot digital trade for the 21st century

Syria: Civilians caught in crossfire, UN refugee chief urges Jordan to open its border

Children who exercise have more brain power, finds study

A Europe that protects: Continued efforts needed on security priorities

UN rights chief calls for release of hundreds abducted and abused in South Sudan

‘Let the children live’: UN prepares to ramp up food aid to Yemen as famine risk grows

FEATURE: Niger’s girls find sanctuary in fistula treatment centres

IMF’s Lagarde: Ukraine must fight corruption

European Commission recommends common EU approach to the security of 5G networks

Help prevent children ‘from becoming victims in the first place’, implores Guterres at campaign launch

COP21 Business update: Companies urge now for carbon pricing as coal is still a big issue

The Japanese have a word to help them be less wasteful – ‘mottainai’

6 facts to know about EU alternative investment funds

Why do US presidential elections last so long? And 4 other things you need to know

It will take a lot more than free menstrual pads to end period poverty

Who should be responsible for protecting our personal data?

WHO study reveals ‘game-changer’ drug with potential to save thousands of women’s lives in childbirth

UN chief condemns student abductions in north-west Cameroon

The Commission unsuccessfully pretends to want curbing of tax evasion

To win combat against HIV worldwide, ‘knowledge is power’, says UNAIDS report

A new European banking space is born this year

Caspian Sea deal an invaluable step towards easing regional tensions, says UN Chief

EU budget deal struck with Parliament negotiators

Three ideas for leaders to be more successful in the 21st century

‘All efforts must be made’ to ensure peaceful elections for Guinea-Bissau, Security Council hears

Young people all over the world come together to demand paid good quality internships

Banks suffocate the real economy by denying loans

For how long will terror and economic stagnation be clouding the European skies?

UN chief praises Japanese climate resilience, as Typhoon Hagibis cleanup begins

Why Eurozone needs a bit more inflation

Don’t understand the US-China trade war? This metaphor could help

India-UN fund gets 22 development projects off the ground in first year

China’s New Normal and Its Relevance to the EU

Here are 3 alternative visions for the future of work

Millions at risk if Syria’s war moves to last redoubt of Idlib, warns senior aid official

Commission to decide on bank resolution issues

The European Sting writes down the history LIVE from G20 Leaders’ Summit in Turkey

Breaking barriers between youth in the new tech era: is there an easy way through?

Why strive for Industry 4.0

UN health experts warn ‘dramatic resurgence’ of measles continues to threaten the European region

Russia to cut gas supplies again: can the EU get back to growth without a solid energy market?

Keep Africa’s guns ‘from firing in the first place’, UN political chief urges

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s