Feedback from healthcare leaders – including executive officers, financial officers, technology and information officers, operating officers and more – explores the challenges they have faced since the onset of the pandemic, and where their current and future priorities lie, revealing a new vision for the future of healthcare. With a focus on patient-centred healthcare enabled by smart technology, their vision is shaped by a fresh emphasis on partnerships, sustainability and new models of care delivery, both inside and outside the hospital.
A mixed outlook
According to Philips’ report, nearly three quarters (72%) of APAC healthcare leaders are confident in their hospital or healthcare facility’s ability to deliver quality healthcare in the next three years. Although this is overwhelmingly positive after the challenges of the pandemic, APAC’S confidence levels are slightly below the average (75%) healthcare leader across the 14 countries that Philips surveyed.
The Future Health Index 2021 report also reveals significant differences in optimism across the APAC region, with many more healthcare leaders in Singapore (84%) feeling confident, compared to those in China (58%) and Australia (66%).
“APAC’s healthcare systems have all shown resilience in their responses to the pandemic, however when it comes to confidence about the future, we’re seeing a mixed picture - with Singapore pulling ahead of other countries across Asia,” said Caroline Clarke, Market Leader and EVP, Philips ASEAN Pacific. “While crisis response will continue to be a priority for many healthcare leaders in the months ahead, it is important that they look to the future too, to ensure that they don’t fall behind in technology upgrades and progress towards healthcare digitization.”
Increased anticipation of care delivery outside the hospital, but some in region failing to prioritize virtual care now
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated radical shifts in care delivery for both patients and providers around the world and the Future Health Index 2021 report reveals that, as APAC’s healthcare leaders consider what comes next, many are pragmatic about where and how care is delivered.
APAC’s healthcare leaders expect that, three years from now, on average around a quarter (25%) of routine care delivery will take place outside the walls of a hospital or healthcare facility, up from 22% today.
Despite this, prioritization of virtual care is patchy across the region. Healthcare leaders in India are among the most likely of all countries surveyed to currently prioritize a shift to remote/virtual care (75%) – well ahead of the average healthcare leader response across the 14 countries surveyed (42%). However, countries in the rest of region are lagging behind with only around four in ten in Singapore (40%), around one in three in China (32%) and about one in four in Australia (27%) making it a current priority.
The fall-out of dealing with COVID-19 could be what is distracting APAC’s healthcare leaders from making remote/virtual care a greater focus, with more than half (60%) saying that preparing to respond to crises is their primary priority right now and 58% citing the pandemic as the main external factor that is impeding their ability to plan for the future.
There are also regional disparities in terms of how and where virtual care will be delivered in the future. Singapore is blazing the trail for shifting routine care from hospitals to home settings – while those surveyed in Singapore said that just 19% of routine care being provided outside of the hospital is currently delivered in the home, they predict that 45% will be delivered at home three years from now, a bold target which is far higher than the APACi average (18%).
By comparison, despite healthcare leaders overwhelmingly prioritizing a shift to remote/virtual care in India, only 5% see the home as a prominent location for routine care delivery there three years from now. Instead, most feel that ambulatory primary care centers like urgent care and walk-in clinics (57%) and out-of-hospital procedural environments like ambulatory surgical centers and office-based labs (33%) will be the focus in India.
Predictive analytics a major focus for the future, but skills gaps must be addressed first
APAC’s healthcare leaders are second only to healthcare leaders in Europe when it comes to championing predictive analytics; 27% of APAC healthcare leaders agree that their hospital or healthcare facility needs to invest in implementing predictive technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to be prepared for the future. This is behind Europe’s 36% but far above the Middle East & Africa’s 6%.
The investment in AI by APAC healthcare leaders is currently focused primarily on administrative tasks like automating documentation, scheduling appointments, and improving workflow, above clinical and diagnostic applications. However, this looks set to change in the near future as APAC’s healthcare leaders look to invest in AI to predict outcomes (33%), integrate diagnostics (33%) and for clinical decision support (26%) in three years.
Despite these ambitions, staff inexperience and staff shortages could impede progress, if not urgently addressed. Staff’s lack of experience with new technologies ranks among the top internal barriers impeding their ability to prepare for the future, with about half of APAC’s healthcare leaders (51%) citing it as a current impediment, whilst around one in four (26%) say that staff shortages are holding them back.
Lack of training is also cited as one of the biggest barriers to the wider adoption of digital health technologies by nearly one third (30%), as are difficulties with data management (41%), likely relating to high volumes of data and a lack of clarity around ownership.
“The pandemic has confirmed the viability of remote care but dealing with the current crisis could be preventing many of APAC’s healthcare leaders from prioritizing this as much as they otherwise would. Likewise, staff inexperience and skill shortages risk hindering further digitization in the region if not urgently addressed. It is vital that APAC’s healthcare leaders invest in the right training to move beyond purely administrative applications of these game-changing technologies to unlock their full potential in the future,” added Caroline Clarke.
Industry poised for unprecedented move on sustainability
Philips’ Future Health Index 2021 report also finds that implementing environmental sustainability practices is set to become a dominant trend in APAC, and across the 14 countries surveyed, within the next three years.
While not a current concern for many, 49% of APAC’s healthcare leaders expect to prioritize the implementation of sustainability practices in their hospital or healthcare facility three years from now, up from just 5% today.
Since 2016, Philips has conducted original research to help determine the readiness of countries to address global health challenges and build efficient and effective health systems. For details on the Future Heath methodology and to access the Future Health Index 2021 report in its entirety, visit: https://www.philips.com.sg/a-w/about/news/future-health-index/reports/2021/healthcare-leaders-look-beyond-the-crisis.html