At USD 150 billion, Asia-Pacific is home to the world’s second largest medtech market and, with a CAGR of nine percent, certainly its most dynamic. Chronic underfunding of healthcare systems in APAC means that a region accounting for 60 percent of the world’s population only represents a quarter of global medtech industry value, but this situation is changing rapidly as universal healthcare reforms are implemented and robust public-private collaborations established. The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to further shift the needle and establish the medtech industry at the heart of the health conversation in the region.
As Harjit Gill, previously APAC lead at medtech giant Philips and since 2019 CEO of regional industry association APACMed explains, “the pandemic has been a great opportunity for the medtech industry to (re)gain trust with health systems across the region … the road to progress in Asia-Pacific is heavily reliant on public-private partnerships; indeed, Asia-Pacific has fared relatively well in crisis management as a result of the various ecosystem players coming together to share best practices.”
As average health literacies and appropriate level of focus on the industry improve with the pandemic, we expect medtech to continue to play a leadership role in bringing the best healthcare innovations to those in need
She continues, “Many governments are using the pandemic to revisit outdated regulatory and capacity building models too. Our efforts with the ‘regulatory reliance’ program, for example, are driving greater harmonization for medtech across the ASEAN region, thereby reducing timelines, complexities, costs and improving access. As a result, and in assessing the supply impacts of COVID-19, we built capability matrices with the regulators and are initiating collaborative training curriculum. Such training and task-shifting is key in a region like ASEAN, where we are short nearly five million of the requisite healthcare workers.”
“We furthermore see tremendous innovations being born out of the crisis. In Singapore, the government has pledged an additional $20 billion for scientific R&D and to create 7,500 new jobs in the healthcare sector by the end of the year. The applications and adoption of digital health for example, especially of the medical-grade variety that we cover under the APACMed umbrella, has seen rapid industrialization in the utility as well as the coverage schemes becoming available as the era of “contactless care” has landed.”
Gill concludes, “Ultimately, we see a pivot toward real “health creation” activities across the ecosystem – medtech but also many sectors coming together to re-centre ourselves around the collective well-being of the populations. As average health literacies and appropriate level of focus on the industry improve with the pandemic, we expect medtech to continue to play a leadership role in bringing the best healthcare innovations to those in need.”
Roche Diagnostics’ managing director for the Asia-Pacific region, Lance Little – himself an APACMed board member – also feels that COVID-19 has the potential to really transform how medtech companies are seen and operate in the region. “APACMed has actually produced a White Paper talking about the successes and opportunities that arose within the COVID context to accelerate the entry of products into certain markets, for instance, by leveraging the work that had already been done in a similar country or a country with a strong regulatory environment,” he notes. “This is an ongoing conversation but with COVID, some good work has been done on this front.”
The days of seeing ourselves as just a piece within the ecosystem, sitting independently of other players and interacting only with the people we see a direct connection with, are coming to an end. The role of a diagnostics or pharma or medtech company needs to become more interactive
Little adds, “Secondly, within the healthcare industry, I do see organizations like Roche Diagnostics increasingly developing more of an ecosystem mindset. The days of seeing ourselves as just a piece within the ecosystem, sitting independently of other players and interacting only with the people we see a direct connection with, are coming to an end. The role of a diagnostics or pharma or medtech company needs to become more interactive. How can we partner with different players to improve overall healthcare outcomes and overall healthcare efficiency? This will become an increasingly important conversation because public and private health providers are looking to do more with each dollar.”
The company has been particularly keen to engage more with the ecosystem of medtech start-ups in the region. “Already, Roche Diagnostics runs a model called ‘Startup Creasphere’ in Germany, which we have since brought to the APAC region, together with the accelerator Plug and Play, which is specifically designed for us to connect and work with start-ups here,” explains Little. “We have also had alliances with other companies like GE Healthcare, where we worked on the digital front. We have worked with pharma companies including Roche Pharmaceuticals but also other companies in companion diagnostics development. It all comes down to being willing to experiment and try new things. There is no single recipe but conceptually, it is important to take this ecosystem approach to deliver value within healthcare.”
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