Robert Sawatzky
Nov 7, 2018

Consumerisation of healthcare in Asia is opening new doors for brands

By removing health stigmas and connecting patients directly with practitioners, consumers are gaining more exposure to key health product and services brands, says a new JWT Intelligence study

Consumerisation of healthcare in Asia is opening new doors for brands

Technological advances have been continually improving the medicine for ages, but a new J. Walter Thompson Intelligence APAC study documents a new turning point.

The latest digital technologies are giving people more knowledge and control of their own health, while the scope of personal healthcare itself is expanding beyond the clinics and hospitals to increasingly include services to improve overall wellbeing.

Entitled Well Economy: Asia, the study looks at data from 2,500 consumers in China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia along with expert interviews and case studies.

“Across Asia, amid rising incomes and rising expectations, patients are acting more and more like consumers – moving from a passive to an active stance. In tandem, and perhaps in response, the medical world is borrowing from the lifestyle sectors,” said the report’s author Chen May Yee APAC Director, The Innovation Group. “And with new players, particularly tech companies, starting to disrupt healthcare by exploiting inefficiencies, ‘traditional’ sectors need to embrace this change, or run the risk of getting left behind.”

Both local startups and tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent, the report says, are disrupting the sector across Asia-Pacific in three main ways:

New medical match-makers

These are connecting patients, or more aptly, consumers, directly to doctors or other healthcare providers. Two-thirds of consumers in the study said they would go to a doctor more often if there weren’t such long wait times.

A good example of this is China’s largest online health platform, Ping An Good Doctor, that is expanding into Southeast Asia and has formed a joint venture with Grab to improve access to online medical appointments and medicine delivery.

Un-tabooing health

Apps and social media campaigns are opening up previously ‘taboo’ areas like mental and sexual health. 

Around half the survey respondents say they would go to the doctor more often if there was less stigma around sexual health check-ups. Singapore’s first sexual wellness festival, Spark Fest, drew attendees from across Asia this year, the report notes. 

RELATED STORY: J&J preaches what it practices on holistic health

Meanwhile a multitude of coaching and tracking apps are influencing Asians’ daily lifestyle choices, including mental health.

Malaysian startup Naluri (founded by the former CEO of AirAsia X), is one such new app introduced this year that offering psychological support for users who want to make lifestyle changes in order to become physically healthier.

Disrupting insurance

The pain points of traditional insurance are known to many who feel the hassle when submitting claims or file for pre-emptive wellness programs. Only 51% of consumers in the study trust government health insurance, and only 46% trust private insurance to help them stay healthy.

A slate of startups are looking to change this and in response, the big insurance firms are developing their own innovation centers like MetLife’s LumenLab in Singapore, to identify pain points.

The study goes on to document how the beauty, food and beverage and retail industries across Asia-Pacific are incorporating more health and wellness into their offerings. 

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