Financing the future of healthcare - Pt 3

The future of clinical-based pharma is not the only segment to have undergone rapid transformation due to the pandemic.

Social-distancing measures have significantly impacted access to healthcare causing elective surgeries and some forms of routine care to fall dramatically.

But the use of telemedicine, meanwhile, has skyrocketed, facilitated in part by reforms that make it easier for patients to access remote medicine.

In Germany, the Digital Care Act, passed at the end of 2019, strengthened the use of video consultations and allowed doctors to prescribe digital health apps, with costs covered by the country’s health insurance system. Since the pandemic, telehealth use in Germany has soared, with companies such as TeleClinic reporting 60% week-over-week growth.

In Asia, meanwhile, telemedicine adoption is expected to continue well beyond Covid-19.

For example, at MyDoc, a telemedicine platform headquartered in Singapore, the number of monthly active users grew 272% from January 2019 to January 2021. Registered users also rose 65% year over year.

Similarly, Chinese digital health platform Ping An Good Doctor saw an 18% increase in newly-registered users and a 24% increase in daily consultations in 2020 compared with 2019. While usage has declined from its pandemic peak, it is evident that telemedicine is here to stay.

“We expect to see further increases in the digitalisation of healthcare,” said Zehrid Osmani, portfolio manager focused on global equities at Martin Currie. “This can take the shape of telemedicine improving the speed of triage as well as convenience and efficiency in managing low-acuity patients.

“In addition, the use of remote monitoring devices, which can improve patients’ adherence to treatment and intervene in medical care before expensive exacerbations requiring hospital care occur,” he added.

With investors scouring the region for growth opportunity, the future focus remains firmly on China and its potential for commercial development.

For many industry participants, China has come a long way since the SARS outbreak of the early 2000s when it had fewer homegrown pharmaceutical or diagnostic capabilities.

China’s biotech industry is likely to emerge stronger behind accelerated government support. Healthy China 2030, China’s national healthcare strategy published in 2016, sets out ambitious goals for improving the health of the Chinese population, including better access to innovative drugs.

“At a sector level, rising disposable incomes and increasingly health-conscious citizens boost the prospects for healthcare services. Authorities have increased tax breaks for research and development spending to drive innovation and reduce dependence on Western technology,” said Nicholas Yeo, head of China equities at Aberdeen Standard Investments. He added, “this could be a key factor among China’s growing array of pharmaceutical firms. My team has taken stakes in clinical research organisations that service pharma firms, for instance.”

This is an excerpt from an article in the Summer 2021 issue of FinanceAsia

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