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Analysis: A vision of connected healthcare delivery

Nicole Hill, global director of healthcare at ALE, has a goal to make everyone and everything in healthcare connected. She explains how healthcare is entering a second wave of digitisation in Asia.

In Asia, healthcare is going through its own digital transformation. New technology, such as wearables, telemedicine and IoT connectivity is making its way into hospitals, clinics and care homes, aimed at optimising care pathways to reduce average hospital stays and improve patient welfare. But without the right infrastructure in place to support new devices and applications working on the front-line of healthcare, the limitations of existing systems will hinder technology adoption and the weaknesses in security will be laid bare – as has been shown by recent ransomware cases on hospitals in China, Indonesia and Japan, causing bottlenecks in patient admissions.

Asian healthcare providers are not immune from the rise in patient expectations when it comes to technology. Patients now have access to a wide range of medical information online and are accustomed to digital services and connectivity. The challenge for many healthcare providers today is to meet these digital service expectations while using enhanced connectivity to promote better health outcomes.

The answer lies in using technology to develop an optimised care pathway – one that reaches right across the healthcare ecosystem for a continuum of care. This means connecting with patients outside hospital or clinic boundaries through fast-response contact centres, automated patient reminders to cut down missed appointments, video diagnoses and remote monitoring or health tracking.

On-site, any care pathway must presume the default mode of connecting most devices on the network is going to be wireless. User devices such as workstations on wheels, tablets and smartphones, and clinical devices such as mobile image capture, infusion pumps and location tags all rely on being mobile and connected to the network.

Caregivers can’t be in two places at once, but with the right applications and tools, nurses can monitor wards and patient events 24/7. Simplified bedside voice and text communications or integrated notification and alarm systems can send information straight to caregivers’ workstations or mobile devices meaning round-the-clock care, at the desk or on the move.

Clinicians can access electronic medical records at the bedside or easily connect and collaborate with colleagues without having to return to their desks. Not only does this save caregivers valuable time, it also streamlines patient care by communicating crucial clinical information to team members, regardless of location.

Connecting departments and staff with enterprise-grade, mobile collaboration will be as important as reliable IoT connectivity and is central to properly supporting multidisciplinary healthcare and optimising staff’s time and workflows.

From a user perspective, IT needs to be intuitive or you risk alienating some of your patients and staff. This means simple but secure internet access on the front-end where the needs of patients and staff are met. But behind the scenes IT needs to be tightly controlled and delivered without a disruptive impact on critical network services – making sure authorized users can always access the resources they need.

With the right approach, access to networks and data can be based on set user profiles and predefined policies. The right people – and only the right people – can access and record information securely or use the applications and tools they need on their mobile or fixed devices. The IT department has the network visibility to see all the traffic and users, prioritize devices and applications, reserve or limit bandwidth or blacklist devices.

If it wasn’t before, it’s now very clear that hospitals and care providers are not exempt from the threat of cyberattacks, which can result in stolen data or disrupted operations.

Some healthcare providers are struggling with network security because the traditional approach to infrastructure design is to have separate network silos for different departments – such as bio-medical devices, security, patients and clinicians all on separate subsystems – and there is no overall view of the network. But this approach is no longer a realistic option.

Connected healthcare devices need to be secured, but expanding separate networks to support all these new devices will be a managerial and financial nightmare. Moving these onto a single IP-based network offers significant maintenance and management benefits, as long as it is deployed in a secure way. One of the core principles behind this is network segmentation – or IoT containerisation.

This is a method of creating virtual environments on a single network infrastructure where each virtual IoT container can act as its own network, where users can only interact or manage devices within that virtual environment. For example, the security team’s container might include the IP cameras and alarm systems and only be accessed and configured by authorized users from that team. As well as creating an optimised environment to run connected healthcare devices, any compromised device won’t spread the threat to other containers, limiting a breach in a worst-case scenario. 

There is huge potential for improved connectivity to have a massive impact on healthcare in Asia, and help create positive outcomes for patients. Healthcare providers have the opportunity to put the right tools in the hands of caregivers and deploy a network infrastructure capable of supporting them. To build optimized care pathways and provide patients with an optimised healthcare journey requires an approach to digital transformation which provides mobility, connectivity and security every step of the way.

Posted on: 22/02/2018 UTC+08:00


News

SGX-listed Acromec, which designs and builds medical and sterile cleanrooms, has secured another contract in the healthcare sector valued at S$2.9 million (US$2.1 million). It is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Sydney-based 1st Group, the Australian digital health, media and technology group, has appointed Richard Rogers as chief financial officer. He joins from Lenovo Australia & New Zealand.
Asia-focused market expansion services provider DKSH is to sell its healthcare business in China to Warburg Pincus for SFr100 million (US$100.7 million).
Summerset Group, New Zealand’s third-largest listed retirement village operator, has said that it expects underlying half year profits to jump between 21% and 26% to NZ$43 million (US$29.4 million) and NZ$45 million.
Patient flow management firm Jayex Healthcare has signed a binding licence agreement with medical cannabis company MediCann NZ under which it will be granted the exclusive use and application of its technologies in New Zealand in connection with their proposed sale and distribution of medical cannabis products in line with the expected deregulation in New Zealand of medical cannabis.
IDS Medical Systems Group, a leading medical supply-chain solutions company in Asia, and Tencent-backed We Doctor have formed idsMED WeDoctor China, the country’s first smart medical supply chain solutions and procurement company.
Australian medtech company Resonance Health has signed an alliance partner agreement with Blackford Analysis which grants it rights to integrate and combine Resonance Health products with, or sell and license Resonance Health products in connection with the host application.
Malaysian medical services company Adventa has scrapped plans to raise M$80.2 million (US$20.3 million) after Top Glove Corporation, the world’s largest rubber glove manufacturer, announced legal proceedings against its parent Adventa Capital and two of its directors.



Analysis

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Aon’s inaugural Asia Healthcare Trends Report 2017/18 shows that although Hong Kong has a lower medical inflation rate than the average in APAC, it is the highest in Greater China.
Out of date and unsecure fax machines are still being used to share patient information between healthcare providers in Australia. Not only do fax machines cause frustration for healthcare providers trying to communicate with each other, they can also cause patient harm.
Health and well-being programmes are fragmented and do not meet the needs of stressed Asia workforces, finds Willis Towers Watson. By and large, employers in Asia still miss the mark when it comes to their health and well-being benefits, with many employees feeling that their needs are not met, according to research from the global advisory, broking and solutions company.
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