The growing need and demand for healthcare in Singapore & ASEAN in general
Singapore continues to be amongst the top nations for the provision of healthcare services and it is no longer secret, and not too hard to wonder why the healthcare needs within the nation continues to grow exponentially over the last few years.
The increased demand from “medical” tourists flying in from the region, alongside the aging population of the country that grew at an approximate rate of 0.5% year on year over the last 10 years (or 5% over 10 years) were the main factors for the growth in the industry. Demand has now outpaced supply and the nation is faced with the challenge of increasing supply to match its growing needs.
The country is definitely not alone in its battle as its ASEAN neighbors are all faced with a similar crunch within the healthcare sector. The growing numbers and stature of the middle income class/population alongside the relatively stagnant progress made in the developments of the healthcare industry over the years have widened the gap. The sector has to quickly invigorate itself and develop at a faster pace to ensure that the current crunch doesn’t become a pandemic.
Singapore Government recognizing the challenges posed
The challenges were recognized early on and the government was quick to react. As part of its budgetary speeches year on year, focus on healthcare transformation and development had been strongly iterated and the “Healthcare Industry Transformation Map” had been drawn up to map out strategies to steer the healthcare industry and workforce towards better skills/works to combat the challenges posed.
Broadly, the 3 pronged approach laid out is as follows.
- Enhancing Jobs and Skills
- Raising Productivity
- Catalyzing Innovation
In addition to the above, as part of the country’s “Smart Nation” initiative, the country has highlighted and keenly promoted the use of technology to enhance living standards, alternative treatment methodologies and awareness to better prevent the full on reliance on the current system.
Lastly, to spearhead the movements, the government has incentivized the industry by setting aside US$ 4 billion in funds over a 4 year time frame to develop the industry (2016 till 2020). Additionally, in recognition that the industry has higher barriers of entry at different stages, the government has also laid out provisions through grants and schemes to facilitate market entry.
ASEAN also taking steps in combating the healthcare crunch
For long periods of time, the healthcare industry within the Economic bloc has been bogged down by the lack of proper infrastructure developments (includes both manpower and hard infrastructure), logistical inefficiencies and regulatory barriers. The nations recognized the need for change and development, and have allowed for improvements through greater economic cooperation through the “ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)”.
Since then, movements of skilled labour, capital and trade have increased between the nations. Persistent problems such as lack of proper infrastructure developments and logistical inefficiencies have been improved, circumvented or mitigated.
The regulatory barriers (biggest stumbling block to the development of the industry) within the nations for healthcare industry have been improved through the set-up of the “Centre of Regulatory Excellence (CoRE)”. The situation is gradually improving through all the above mentioned initiatives and the bloc is well poised for the introduction of various Medtechs.
Leveraging on Swiss Technologies
The intended use of technologies to combat the challenges posed bodes well and essentially points towards opportunities for Swiss companies to tap on. The sectors available are as follows:
- Artificial Intelligence, Assistive Technology and Robotics
- Digital software that can create awareness, allow for access to medical records and other useful health related information
- New Medical Applications and Technologies
- Research and Development of new prototypes and solutions