Published: Jan 20, 2022

the rapid proliferation and advancement of telehealth


At the HIMSS21 APAC conference, Jim Lim, Sector Lead for NCS Healthcare, shared how telehealth is a logical focal point for healthcare innovations to be brought to the masses. 

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The previously unbreakable "Iron Triangle of Healthcare" where the constraints are healthcare systems' top priorities – Cost, Quality and Access – can now be broken with the advent of digital innovations that increase healthcare access and quality without increasing cost or even lowering cost.

The most common telehealth solution involves primary care consultations that take place online (e.g., chat, video conferencing, etc.) via a portal or a mobile app. These also incorporate appointment scheduling, provision of digital medical certificates and medication delivery.

In Singapore, approximately ten telehealth companies are active in this space and employ inhouse doctors or a panel of doctors to offer the service. A 60-70% surge in demand for these services was seen due to COVID-19.

Other prominent solutions focus on pre-consultation. For example, Babylon Health offers a symptom checker and AI/ML driven diagnosis recommendations to patients.

The current landscape for healthcare innovations involves two entities: on one hand, healthcare institutions engaged in their own digital transformation efforts and on the other, digital disruptors.

Healthcare institutions' motivations for innovation are to improve patient experience, stay relevant and support the changing care model (i.e., remote care and monitoring). Generally, they are slower to innovate as they need to decide which services to digitalise, but they have the innate ability to offer more in-depth healthcare services. Their challenge leans more toward of how to strike a balance between online or in-person services. Some institutions implement research and development programmes to trial new solutions in their institutions or partner innovative startups with new digital solutions.

Digital disruptors, on the other hand, comprise healthtech and medtech startups and alliances intent on disrupting the status quo with a new business model (i.e., provide quality but cheaper and more accessible care). Many are financed by venture capitalists (VC) and series funding. They are quicker to innovate and deploy telehealth solutions but their continued growth involves offering more services through partnering or by acquisitions. It is no wonder that telehealth is a key focus seeing as the global telemedicine market size is forecasted to grow to USD175.5 billion by 20261.   

A global trend gaining traction is telcos in health  seeking to be the enabler to bridge the different ecosystem proponents such as consumers, healthcare service providers and the payors through high-speed networks (e.g., 5G) and differentiated connectivity services.

One example of telcos in this space is FarEasTone from Taiwan, which collaborated with the Taitung County government and other agencies to increase accessibility in healthcare services to rural areas. A self-developed remote diagnosis and treatment service platform connects with IOT medical equipment used by clinicians at local public health centres.  This data (physiological and observation images) is transmitted via 5G to the cloud to specialists in large medical centres to conduct remote disease diagnosis.

What more should/can be done in telehealth?

NCS sees opportunities to expand teleconsult capabilities to include remote diagnosis and monitoring tools to accurately assess and diagnose a wider variety of conditions and detect adverse events.  Hence, NCS has started developing fall prevention and robotics solutions in this space.

Another area to focus on is cybersecurity. With the imminent increase of IOT and connected devices supporting telehealth, security solutions are vital to prevent hacking and data/information leaks to ensure safety of patients.

For more information, visit www.ncs.co.

1Telemedicine Market demand to reach USD 175 Bn by 2026: Global Market Insights, Inc


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