Analysis by PwC on digital health in the emerging markets finds that while traditional digital health models are often too expensive to implement, new more affordable digital healthcare models are disrupting emerging markets which have the potential to give these healthcare systems improved accessibility, safety and quality care.
The digital healthcare dilemma
Expenditure on healthcare is increasing exponentially in emerging markets (see figure 1). As incomes are rising and the middle class is growing, people are spending more on healthcare and demanding better services. Consumers are no longer passive patients, but have become engaged, with access to new tools and better information. As lifestyles are changing and people are living longer, the emerging markets are witnessing a shift from communicable to chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
This is causing increasing strain on health systems in the emerging markets, which already face the challenge of underdeveloped infrastructure and an acute shortage of resources.
The shift from traditional to new digital health solutions
Traditional digital health solutions such as Electronic Health Records (EHR) – which are popular in the developed markets – require a huge up-front cost to purchase, install and maintain. Adoption in the emerging markets has therefore been low.
But new, non-traditional solutions such as cloud-based or open-source EHR can help emerging markets digitise at a fraction of the cost. For best outcomes, other healthcare innovations such as telemedicine, mHealth applications and e-prescriptions will be built around the EHR.
Says David McKeering, Partner, PwC South East Asia Consulting:
“Digital health can dramatically improve an organisation’s productivity and, in turn, provide benefits in both patient outcomes and the bottom line. If the costs can be made affordable, digital health could be an answer to the emerging markets’ challenge to achieve sustainable growth and leapfrog the developed nations to provide quality, affordable, universal and patient-centric care.
“The good news is that new affordable solutions are coming to the market. And with internet and smartphone penetration growing, the existing technology infrastructure could be used to develop innovative solutions to deliver healthcare services.”
Some examples can already be seen in several emerging markets. The Philippines has implemented an open source electronic medical record system for government health facilities called CHITS. And there is strong support for healthcare cloud systems from both public and private hospitals in Malaysia and the Philippines.
The challenge for healthcare providers
‘Digital healthcare’ is not about the technologies, it’s about new ways of solving healthcare problems, creating unique experiences for patients and accelerating healthcare providers’ growth.
One thing is clear: digital is here to stay – and if healthcare providers are not prepared, they may be left behind.
To succeed, healthcare providers and administrators need to set strategies that harness technology for mutual interests and mutual gain as they build care delivery models with patients – not patient encounters – at their centre.
The companies that will emerge as winners in this new marketplace will be those that can articulate how technology can add value, align incentives, strategically share and analyse data, and redeploy, extend and expand their workforce to embrace digital enablers.
Director - Marketing & Communications, PwC Cyprus