Produced by SilverKris for NOVI Health
In this opinion essay, Dr. Sue-Anne Toh, CEO of Singapore-based health tech startup NOVI Health, reveals Singapore’s unique strengths as a health hub, and the key trends that will shape digital health within the region and beyond.
As a health tech CEO and medical practitioner based in Singapore, I have witnessed the tremendous growth and transformation of the healthcare space in this city-state over the past few years. Singapore has emerged as a leading hub for health tech and is uniquely positioned to drive innovative solutions and key trends in digital health within the region. It’s no surprise that Singapore has attracted one of the largest sums of venture capital deals for digital health in Asia.
One of Singapore’s biggest strengths as a health hub lies in its multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan population. Studies conducted overseas have shown that minority populations face disparities in healthcare access. This is often due to providers’ unfamiliarity with their language and culture. Thanks to the city’s multi-national and multi-cultural social fabric, Singapore offers a rich environment for the development of health solutions that cater to the needs of different communities.
We have access to diverse data – a real-life “Living Lab”, if you will – that helps us personalize solutions for people from different backgrounds and needs. Its concentrated geography also allows efficient recruitment of participants in large-scale studies and clinical trials.
For example, we’ve been able to conduct extensive research studies on pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes by recruiting thousands of participants from across the country in a single centre for “gold-standard” physiological tests. Achieving this scale and depth would have been challenging, even in countries like the United States or the United Kingdom, where the biomedical research landscape is mature and established.
Thanks to the city’s multi-national and multi-cultural social fabric, Singapore offers a rich environment for the development of health solutions that cater to the needs of different communities.
Singapore’s high level of health literacy has played a significant role in the rapid adoption and understanding of health tech innovations. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this: the need for remote consultations, telemedicine, and digital health platforms has become more pronounced, leading to a surge in the development and utilization of these technologies by healthcare providers such as NOVI Health. This accelerated adoption of health tech has no doubt led to changes in consumer and patient behaviours.
A movement towards customer-focused value-based care
Consumers now expect the same level of experience, service, and information transparency in healthcare as they do when purchasing other products. Although there are still gaps in healthcare, the information asymmetry between the patient and the provider is decreasing.
Technology has the potential to address this information asymmetry and improve transparency in healthcare. With health information more accessible than ever, consumers are savvier and more knowledgeable about their options, pricing, and more. I believe this will be a transformative change. However, this accessibility also brings challenges. It is crucial to ensure that the available information is balanced and vetted to prevent misinformation.
We are also witnessing a positive trend towards value-based care. Healthcare currently operates on a fee-for-service model, where payment is based on individual consultations, medications, and tests. However, there is a growing recognition that this model can create incentives for doctors to order unnecessary tests and medications.
The focus is now shifting towards delivering value, which is defined as achieving better outcomes at a reasonable cost. For example, if one doctor can achieve the same or better outcomes in just one visit while another requires the patient to commit to 10 visits or at a higher cost, the former provides better value. This movement is already gaining momentum, and the next step is to determine how to implement it on a larger scale.
Efficiencies in healthcare not only improve patient access to vital services, but also allow healthcare providers more time to focus on delivering personalized care.
Looking ahead at the next 10 years, I believe technology will be instrumental in enhancing access to healthcare. People can access healthcare not just by visiting hospitals, but also through mobile health solutions. Healthcare will be personalized, holistic, not episodic, and I’m excited about leading this charge with NOVI Health. Through our app, users can track their lifestyle habits and receive timely feedback, personalized advice and support from a health coach.
I am also hopeful that emerging technologies like AI can augment care provided by healthcare professionals and reduce the workload of healthcare professionals such as doctors and dieticians. Efficiencies in healthcare not only improve patient access to vital services, but also allow healthcare providers more time to focus on delivering personalized care. This can significantly enhance areas of healthcare that require a human touch, leading to better patient experiences and outcomes.
Ultimately, I’m energized by the future of health tech in Singapore. With ongoing advancements in AI, data analytics, and wearables, there are boundless opportunities for innovation and improvement in healthcare delivery. I believe that as a health tech hub, Singapore has the potential to not only transform healthcare within its borders but also pioneer the development of solutions tailored to a diverse, global population.
To learn more about NOVI Health, visit the official website.