Life Science and Pharmaceutical Industry

Health Ecosystem Day: What healthcare players can learn from each other

Our inaugural Health Ecosystem Day is a pioneering platform that brings together fellow healthcare professionals, industry and technology experts, entrepreneurs and other ecosystem players to foster collaboration and explore new ways of working towards a well-connected health ecosystem.

In this article, we explore the success factors necessary to foster better collaboration and innovation within the health ecosystem. 

Health Ecosystem Day 2023
8 minutes to read
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Singapore ranks 10th in the 2022 World Index of Health Care Innovation, excelling in delivering patient-centric care and affordability while lagging in medical technology development. Considering the challenges that the healthcare system in Singapore is facing, there is still plenty of room for innovation. To truly step into the future of healthcare and tap into its many opportunities, collaboration and partnership within the ecosystem will be key. 

Traditional players, such as pharmaceutical, medical devices companies and healthcare providers, must be open to working with startups, tech enablers, and other digital innovators. Government agencies, universities, and research institutions need to be involved. The ultimate goal? Provide a superior patient experience while managing costs to improve health outcomes for people.
 

Highlights from Health Ecosystem Day 2023

Recognising the untapped opportunity to collaborate and co-innovate with health ecosystem partners, Zühlke brought together more than 100 decision-makers from the health ecosystem in the region to participate in Health Ecosystem Day. Held on November 22 at Singapore Management University, this pioneering event is designed to nurture the healthcare ecosystem through collaboration and innovation.

Featuring panel discussions and a keynote speech on emerging trends, innovative solutions, and collaborative opportunities to a dedicated innovation zone to showcase the latest technology in medtech and healthtech, the event served as a catalyst for driving meaningful dialogue and fostering strategic partnerships within the healthcare landscape.

From discussions on aligning interests for health ecosystems to truly thrive to using technology as an enabler to scale and deliver better care, many learnings and success factors emerged from this event. In this article, we delve deeper into these insights, exploring the success factors necessary to foster better collaboration and innovation within the health ecosystem. 

1. Tech companies and traditional players both benefit from collaboration

The future of healthcare relies heavily on the ability to innovate, which can only be achieved through collaborative efforts among all stakeholders in the ecosystem, including traditional healthcare providers, tech companies, and government agencies.

Dr. Cheong Wei Yang, Vice Provost at the Singapore Management University and Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Health, delivered a keynote address on how public-private partnerships can pave the way to a more collaborative and innovative healthcare ecosystem. 

He highlighted the need for “the entire system to kick in” and to work together to better manage population health. 'The government has part of the data. Some data lies with private health providers and medical technology companies. How do we bring these data together?', Dr Cheong highlighted the importance of getting an answer to this question. 

Collaboration in finance

But while digitalisation is critical, the future of healthcare will likely have space for both traditional players and technological innovators. While tech innovators are often portrayed as disrupting traditional aspects of the industry, their relationship can also be complementary rather than just antagonistic, focusing on collaborative problem-solving and reducing duplicating solutions based on each other’s unique strengths. 

In healthcare delivery, for instance, 'There will be new ways of delivering care that will not be completely traditional. But it will not be 100% technology-driven and futuristic [either], because certain things will need to be grounded in practices that have been proven and in the comfort level of people who are actually in the field or on the ground,' said Dr. Chern Chet Yong, Asia Ecosystem, 22Health Ventures.

There is a lot that newer tech companies can learn from the years of on-the-ground experience of healthcare organisations and practitioners. These more traditional players, on the other hand, can benefit from working closely with Singapore’s health-tech sector, which has remained resilient despite an overall decline in healthtech deals and valuations around the world in 2022, perhaps on the back of the country’s dynamic tech ecosystem, favourable business environment, and robust infrastructure. 

It’s a sector that has “come of age,” according to a 2022 venture capital report by Enterprise Singapore and Deal Street Asia, experiencing a drop in deal value and volume but, at the same time, witnessing sizable investments, such as digital health company Biofurmis’s US$300 million Series D funding in 2022, which propelled the firm to unicorn status.

2. Digitalisation is a game changer for health ecosystems

Our health ecosystems have to become digitally empowered. Innovation and continued digitalisation may be key to becoming even more globally competitive – topics the first panel covered, detailing existing and potential challenges to innovation, and practical ways forward.

One key insight is that innovation is a process that requires building trust and breaking down silos. This applies not just to ways of working, but also to the technology itself.

Dr Eric Wong
' It’s not enough to create an innovative product alone; it needs to seamlessly integrate within the broader ecosystem as well. '
Dr Eric Wong
Group Chief Data and Strategy Officer, National Healthcare Group (NHG)

Digital plays a pivotal role. The advent of digital technologies opens up various new avenues to delivering enhanced and efficient digital health services, from remote patient monitoring and telemedicine to personalised health apps and data-driven diagnostics.  

Data is also key. Dr Cheong explained that the Future Health System (FHS) in Singapore focuses on three areas: Population Health, Preventive Health and Precision Health. To support the realisation of the FHS, there needs to be: 

  • A strong health data backbone
  • Medical and health devices that enhance prognosis, improve cost-efficiency, and ease healthcare workers' load
  • Good health touchpoints including telemedicine, metaverse/virtual care and community partners

When these key components of the FHS work in collaborative mode, the value of the FHS can be realised to demonstrate better clinical outcomes, cost-effectiveness, and progress towards the desired capitation funding model.

3. Health organisations need to reinvent their business models for the digital world

Kenneth Tan
' The future of this ecosystem definitely has to be digitally enabled, we have to accept that. This means that every single entity needs to build their digital capability. '
Kenneth Tan
Senior Vice President and President of Asia Pacific and Japan, Varian

Innovation does not stop at acquiring or building the right technologies. Business models must be adapted or developed for the new digital reality. To accelerate the pace of technological progress and the adoption of new technologies, Kenneth Tan presented the concept of a pay-per-use subscription model or "Infrastructure-as-a-Service“.

For example, in setting up a cancer centre, a hospital facing budget constraints could opt for an “infrastructure-as-a-service” model, where an external company builds the infrastructure and charges the hospital on a subscription basis, allowing for manageable operating expenses instead of hefty capital investments in infrastructure, human capital, and digital capabilities.
 

4. Gerontechnology and active ageing are opportunities for health-tech players

Singapore’s population is ageing rapidly, with nearly one in five adults being 65 years and older. According to the Ministry of Health’s 2023 Action Plan for Successful Ageing, some of the biggest concerns of Singapore’s elderly include declining physical and mental health, rising living costs and a lack of familiarity with technology. 

As populations age, technology tailored to the needs and capabilities of the elderly (gerontechnology) plays a crucial role in supporting active ageing, enhancing quality of life, and addressing the unique challenges faced by older adults.

Gerontechnology

As such, the topic of active ageing is increasing in relevance, with key initiatives such as setting up more active ageing centres and scaling up dementia management outlined in the 2023 Action Plan. Moreover, gerontechnology is emerging as a pivotal component of active ageing, leveraging technology to improve the daily life and ageing of the elderly. It’s important to acknowledge that gerontechnology also serves caregivers who provide essential support and assistance to the elderly. As such, it is vital to consider the caregivers’ requirements and priorities while implementing and designing gerontechnology solutions. 

Carol Ma, associate professor and head of the gerontology programme at the Singapore University of Social Science (SUSS), shared more about their GeronTECH Ambassador Course, which trains senior citizens to promote the adoption of gerontechnology among other community-dwelling to improve quality of life. The programme recognises four categories under gerontech: medical, dining or food-related, safety at home, and mobility. 

For healthcare to properly serve older adults, Ma believes there must be a needs assessment first to grasp actual needs and preferences better. 'We have to really understand that the elderly are heterogeneous. We have to respect their choices,' she said. 

The Innovation Zone

At the event’s Innovation Zone, nine medtech and healthtech startups showcased their latest, most cutting-edge advancements in medical technology and healthcare solutions. This space provided an exclusive platform for these companies to demonstrate their work in the healthcare ecosystem and foster interaction and potential collaboration opportunities with other healthcare ecosystem partners in attendance. 

Among the exhibitors were ObvioHealth, a pioneer in decentralised clinical trials (DCTs) that had partnered with Zühlke to accelerate the launch of their next-generation DCT platform while ensuring it complied with regulatory, quality, and privacy rules worldwide. The partnership produced a platform that allows for the code-free configuration of studies, a 66% reduction in clinical trial build time, more efficient study startup, and faster time to market.

PreSAGE also presented their artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled platform for non-contact, non-intrusive, continuous patient and bedside event monitoring. The platform uses a thermography sensor that generates thermal images and notifies healthcare staff when anomalies are predicted. 

ACTXA exhibited its Blood Glucose Evaluation and Monitoring (BGEM) solution, the world’s first non-invasive blood glucose monitoring solution powered by an AI-driven algorithm. It offers frequent assessments and early detection to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. 

Unlocking the future of health ecosystem with Zühlke

Health Ecosystem Day

At the event, Zühlke also announced a whitepaper initiative, “Ecosystem Innovation in Health” which will be launched in 2024. The whitepaper seeks to explore and uncover the underlying pillars of Singapore’s healthcare ecosystem. 

Events like Health Ecosystem Day are a step toward the new era of healthcare, fostering collaboration, innovation and the exchange of ideas that will shape the health ecosystem. For organisations that want to be part of this exciting ecosystem, working with companies like Zühlke can help realise this with the help of our capabilities in healthcare innovation and business consulting, digital health and application development, device and systems engineering, and smart data and AI. 

Learn more about our work in the healthcare ecosystem by visiting our website, and stay tuned for the launch of our upcoming whitepaper in 2024.