Asia is a beautifully diverse region with people and cultures from over 40 countries and accounting for over half the global population. The needs and challenges of this region vary widely. Notably, when it comes to healthcare, we face the challenge of providing access and quality care to all as unfortunately, many still lack it.
The pandemic has served as a catalyst for greater adoption of innovation when it comes to healthcare delivery across Asia – and highlighted the potential of data and emerging digital tools to tackle big challenges in healthcare. But for a large population who lack access to basic services like the internet, this advancement in health data and digital innovation only deepens the divide between those with access to healthcare and those without.
Critically, these issues come with a built-in timeline. Asia-Pacific is the most densely populated region of the world and continues to grow – and age – at a rapid pace. Our healthcare systems, which underserve a majority of the region’s patients, will buckle under the mounting pressure. Resources will continue to dwindle if we do not implement long-term, sustainable healthcare solutions. Data-enabled, personalised care has the potential to deliver more sustainable healthcare with increased access to innovation and improved patient outcomes.
Personalised healthcare puts patients at the heart of the healthcare system by leveraging insights from real-world data against an individual patient’s medical and genomic data. This facilitates more precise treatment decisions. For patients, this data-based approach has a clear and exponential benefit: access to precise treatments with better outcomes and greater quality of life.
Digital and personalised healthcare can also play an important role in advancing ambitions like universal health care by allowing resources to be invested efficiently and prioritized more effectively. It also presents opportunities to use real-world data to inform access and reimbursement decisions and allocate resources where there is the greatest need.
Importantly, we can better understand populations through aggregated data. Putting together large sets of individual data points to understand the factors that affect population health and how they interact with each other. With all this information, we are better equipped to accelerate medicine discovery to address unmet needs, improve clinical trial design, optimise care for patients, and design public health measures that are more effective.
Personalised healthcare is about not only treating and preventing disease for individual patients. It is also about rethinking, and redesigning the healthcare system for future generations.
While personalised healthcare is an efficient and effective solution to current and future healthcare challenges, to fully realise the benefits of personalised care, we need the infrastructure that enables us to analyse, share, and leverage these data insights. We need responsive regulatory frameworks that facilitate data sharing, with privacy and security as a foundation to unlock the potential of data and turn health data into meaningful insights.
It is encouraging to see that data-enabled care is already becoming the gold standard across the world, with Europe and the Middle East making significant strides towards adopting this approach. In 2020, Saudi Arabia celebrated the foundation of the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) which laid the groundwork for a massive data infrastructure.
While the Asia-Pacific region is definitely making progress growing its digital infrastructure, the growth is inconsistent across the region, with the region’s national scores ranging from 34 to 81 out of 100 in terms of health information on the Asia-Pacific Personalised Healthcare Index.
Improving regulatory frameworks around levels of interoperability and scalability of data, coupled with more rigorous, and responsible collection of data from both clinical and real world settings will need strong, collective commitment. Now is our opportunity to create the policies and frameworks needed to ensure data interoperability, data security and equitable access to digital health innovation across Asia Pacific.
Establishing all of this is an extensive and demanding undertaking – collaboration and partnership will be key to achieving it. Fortunately, governments are not alone in this pursuit of quality healthcare for all.
Partnerships between the public and private sectors, among patient groups, non-profits, academia and industry can accelerate data-sharing best practices and solve societal challenges that no single entity can handle alone. To ensure patients benefit from the potential of data-enabled care, we need to establish the governance and infrastructure needed and forge close collaboration between stakeholders.
We know these collaborations are possible because we have seen them in action. In Singapore, Roche is working alongside an array of national organisations: the Singapore Translational Cancer Consortium (STCC), the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) and the National University Hospital (NUH) to establish critical infrastructure for the nation-wide adoption of personalised healthcare. These stakeholder groups are pooling their medical expertise, research insight and data resources to build a clinical-genomic database (CDGB) in Singapore that will use anonymised patient data to help make more precise treatment decisions for each individual, based on clinical profile.
COVID-19 brought us to an inflection point in the evolution of the region’s health systems. But it has made the potential of data and digital innovation impossible to ignore. The pandemic moved us closer to a shared healthcare vision among the entire healthcare ecosystem and has reinforced the need for health to be a priority for all. We need to build on this momentum because personalised healthcare needs innovative, cross-sector partnerships that will help health systems across Asia become stronger together – and bring the highest impact to patients around the world.
Ahmed Elhusseiny, Area Head of Asia-Pacific, Roche Pharmaceuticals
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
A recent study has found that only 1 in 20 medical treatments have high-quality evidence supporting their benefits, and the harms are measured even less.
Data-enabled, personalised care has the potential to deliver more sustainable healthcare with increased access to innovation and improved patient outcomes.
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