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Digital health: knock, knock, knockin’ on Southeast Asia’s door

Healthcare in Southeast Asia is a US$100 billion dollar market. But there is a stunning diversity in the health systems of the ASEAN-10 cluster. Health spending per capita ranges from a mere US$20 in Myanmar to over US$3,000 in Singapore. Health outcomes, financing systems, and quality of provision also differ widely across ASEAN.

There are, however, some unifying themes and commonalities. Here are five ways startups are helping to solve the unique challenges of the region’s health systems.

1. Consumer health portals

Consumers are highly engaged in their health decisions and seek information and transparency in order to make these decisions effectively. Platforms like Indonesia’s Alodokter, one of the highest funded digital health startups in the region, give “Web-MD” style health information as well as tools for appointment booking.

Medical Departures (Thailand) and DocDoc (Singapore) are capitalizing on this by helping consumers compare and book appointments not just within their own borders but also across them.

2. E-commerce platforms

The increasing consumer readiness for e-commerce has also hit the health sector – in particular when it comes to pharmacies. In a region scattered with mom-and-pop pharmacies, digital marketplaces can help consolidate and streamline offerings to consumers. Leading examples include Indonesia’s ApotikAntar and Prosehat.

3. Telehealth solutions

There is a perennial shortage of physicians in many Southeast Asian economies – with less than two physicians per 10,000 people in Indonesia, for example, versus 20+ in the US. The doctors there typically want to live in big cities – resulting in a wide gap in provision between urban hotspots and other parts of the country.

Startups like RingMD (Singapore) and DokterGratis (Indonesia) are trying to improve consumer access to physicians via telemedicine (online consultation) solutions. Meanwhile, some startups are trying to use digital health to improve the efficiency of hospital systems – Lifetrack (Philippines), for example, has an innovative teleradiology solution that tries to improve the utilization of radiologists in the Philippines.

4. Practice-management products  

Pmedix (Philippines) and Klinify (Singapore) are stepping in to provide simple and user-friendly SaaS-based products for such clinics.

There is also room for high-quality hospital information systems that can be implemented in larger-scale hospitals – for example, that’s what Attune (Singapore) – Southeast Asia’s highest-funded startup in digital health – is doing.

5. Data aggregation platforms

Startups have also recognized the opportunity to unify and aggregate data from across the highly fragmented landscape of doctors, pharmacists, patients in ASEAN health systems. In the Philippines, mClinica built a platform to collect and analyze data from thousands of pharmacies. In Singapore, MyDoc is building a network of labs, doctors, pharmacies through a set of services such as health screening follow-up tools for patients.

In 2016, the digital health startup scene has seen growing interest from entrepreneurs, accelerators, incubators, investors, and corporates. It’s a space that’s young but one to watch. Here’s to a greater 2017 and better health!


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