The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of life. Due to city lockdowns, people have adapted to new ways of coping with day-to-day activities. In particular, EY analysis found that the take-up of telehealth has increased, with Southeast Asian countries seeing an upsurge in demand during the pandemic, given greater adoption by patients and physicians alike.
Some may attribute the sharp growth in telehealth usage to the low baseline during the pre-pandemic days. However, it is undeniable that telehealth demand will continue to grow, even after the pandemic eventually eases. The authorities’ role in promoting or boosting adoption of telehealth to support the sector and encourage mass adoption is significant. In Indonesia, for example, the health authorities have partnered with sector players to provide COVID-19 diagnostics in remote areas.1 Singapore’s Ministry of Health has allowed the use of Government subsidies and a national medical savings scheme (MediSave) to pay for the video consultations of regular follow-ups of all approved chronic diseases.2
As consumers become accustomed to on-demand and self-directed experiences in various areas of their digital lives, more are expected to continue using telehealth after experiencing its convenience.
Data risk amid ecosystem growth
To enhance the consumer experience, health care is no longer restricted to doctor visits or teleconsultations. Health care providers are recognizing the need to combine health and wellness offerings to meet consumer demand as well as working with other players — even non-health care providers — to create their own ecosystem and offer an expanded scope of services to users.
For example, there are some telehealth platforms that provide more than just teleconsultations. They also connect users to pharmacy, diagnostics and chronic disease management service providers as well as non-clinical services, such as weight management services, home workout coaches or even insurance advisors.
In addition, some non-clinical care providers have similar health and wellness digital ecosystems. For example, a global insurer’s digital ecosystem provides lifestyle offerings covering health and wellness services, while partnering with health care providers to provide telehealth. Hence, the insurer’s clients can seek medical consultation online, purchase prescribed medications and arrange for their delivery, book laboratory tests, get a second opinion from other physicians and schedule appointments at hospitals with a single mobile app.
Yet, as consumers benefit from more convenient and comprehensive services that address their health and lifestyle needs, there is a by-product of the entire process that needs careful management: data. More data than ever before will be generated and collected by, and on behalf of, individuals.
As these providers and ecosystems create data with ease, the risks around technological, regulatory and cultural challenges associated with the ownership, sharing and usage of personal health data need to be considered. With partnerships on the rise — and some requiring data-sharing arrangements — this obviously increases the privacy and security risks for patients.
In Singapore, the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) has been progressively deployed to both public and private health care institutions across the country to support the One Patient, One Health Record initiative since 2011. Owned by Singapore’s Ministry of Health and managed by the Government technology agency, Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), the NEHR system collects summary patient health records across different health care providers. This enables authorized health care professionals to have a holistic and longitudinal view of their patients’ health care history as well as provides data security for individuals.