Remote healthcare heats up in SEA and Foxconn plans to cash in

remote healthcare foxconn
A Foxconn rep demonstrates the company's Smart Healthcare Hub at a press event in which Foxconn, tBPC and ITRI agreed to collaborate on remote digital healthcare solutions. | Image credit: ITRI

Taiwan-based manufacturing giant Foxconn said Tuesday that it plans to enter the Southeast Asian digital healthcare device market by 2023 – with a particular focus on remote healthcare – amidst Southeast Asia’s rapid growth in digital healthcare.

According to Chiang Chih-hsiung, head of the company’s B business group, Foxconn will use Taiwan as a launchpad for a remote healthcare monitoring platform this year, and will attempt to deploy the platform in Southeast Asia afterward.

Chiang revealed the plan at a recent signing event in Taiwan with Foxconn, Taiwan Biophotonic Corp (tBPC) and the government-backed Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). Their collaboration will focus on developing Taiwan’s digital healthcare ecosystem, including the development of the remote monitoring platform and its clinical test in Tucheng Hospital, New Taipei.

With the remote healthcare monitoring platform, Foxconn aims to leverage its ICT expertise to develop digital and smart remote healthcare devices and solutions. These include apps interfaces and cloud technology-based applications to help medical personnel monitor patients remotely.

The recent 2021 Digital Frontiers 3.0 Study from software company Vmware found that consumer interest in digital-enabled healthcare services in Southeast Asia has increased. According to its findings, 66% of respondents said they would opt for remote, video-call conversations with medical practitioners instead of face-to-face encounters.

“With more patients increasingly expecting improved healthcare accessibility, timeliness and accuracies regardless of wherever and whenever they are, emerging digital healthcare innovations such as robotics and telehealth will be pivotal in shaping the future of digital healthcare in Southeast Asia,” the study mentioned.

Devan Parinpanayagam, Malaysia Country Manager at Vmware, added that new immersive remote healthcare services such as remote medical consultations, wearable devices and supercomputers “have redefined the way healthcare organizations and doctors interact with the patients and respond quickly to their needs – regardless of when and where they are.”

McKinsey is also bullish on digital healthcare in the SEA region. In 2020, the firm estimated that the consumer-centric digital health market in Asia would expand at a compound annual growth rate of 21% to $100 billion by 2025. While China and India will account for the majority of this revenue, McKinsey noted that Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam also have great potential.

Regional companies are also collaborating to take advantage of the region’s growth in digital healthcare. Last year, UNO Technologies, a medical technology firm based in Singapore, partnered with local pharmaceutical startup Aetos Pharma to enter the Malaysian market and launch healthcare tech, such as an end-to-end clinic management system, amidst disruptions brought about by COVID-19.

Furthermore, the rise of digital and remote healthcare has prompted regulators to explore legislation around telemedicine and other digital healthcare solutions. In particular, healthcare policymakers are ensuring that the development of digital healthcare does not infringe on data privacy standards.

As early as 2019, Singapore’s Health Services Authority published the Regulatory Guidelines for Telehealth Products that cover, among other things, software and mobile applications intended for medical purposes such as detection, diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of any medical conditions. In Indonesia, telemedicine has been governed by a policy entitled “Organisation of Telemedicine Services through Health Service Facilities” since 2019.

“Solutions which are designed purposefully and implemented in a cost-effective way are likely to provide better health outcomes and contribute to the sustainability of health systems. In this context, there should be enough justification to show that the benefits of the process of digitalization outweigh the associated costs,” Woon Shung Toon, CEO of GetDoc and Founder of the Jireh Group, told Disruptive.Asia.

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