By Dr. Helmut Schuehsler, CEO and Chairman,(first published in a company publication where the firm has brought together top-line views of our Southeast Asia experts to paint a vision of the healthcare sector’s future, and some of the changes that the global Covid-19 pandemic will bring.)

We base our investments on extensive research into healthcare trends that we expect to gain future traction; the following summarizes some of the changes the healthcare sector is envisioning, as well as  the changes that the global Covid-19 pandemic will bring to Southeast Asia and other regions of the world:

1.           Covid-19 will move care away from a hospital-centric care model

Covid-19 is likely to accelerate a global trend towards patient-centric model of care, and away from hospital-centric models, which has been driven by beneficial patient outcomes and constraints in hospital capacity. In Southeast Asia, this transition is in its infancy, but will gather pace as patients are becoming more inclined to avoid hospital stays whenever possible. We believe there will be a growing separation between ancillary functions such as imaging and lab tests, and core hospital operations focused on inpatient care. Patients will also choose ambulatory care settings rather than hospitals for increasingly complex care and procedures.

2.           Specialism is the way forward  

Ambulatory centers, labs and specialist inpatient facilities are all taking root in the region and proving popular. This trend will be complemented by increased provision of specialist centers, for example for pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and in response to demand for high quality post-acute care for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. Home-based care is likely to gain traction due to the region’s rapidly aging demographic profile, and in line with traditional practice of caring for the elderly in a family setting. We see private investment complementing public investment – including through innovative partnerships between private and public sectors.

3.           Digital applications in healthcare will accelerate

Covid-19 pandemic has already increased the use of “telemedicine” through video consultations, and we believe it is here to stay.  Growing urban communities and aging populations are spurring demand across Southeast Asia for better chronic healthcare quality and delivery, especially in post-acute and home-based healthcare. We expect to see increasing provision of online consultation activities, requiring more input of clinical information from specialized facilities. These developments will require investment in diagnostics, digital data (medical records) acquisition, storage, interpretation, as well as AI-based decision tools, and last but certainly not least integration of information across the care continuum.

4. Investment trends

As a result of the Covid-19 experience, we expect a trend away from “high-touch” (hospital) care for all diseases and purposes towards  more digitally supported “lower-touch” specialized care, in particular for the management of chronic and non-communicable diseases. This also requires a more active participation of the patients themselves through diagnostic and monitoring devices, wearables and other equipment. In the wake of these developments we expect regional governments to favor the creation of a highly integrated, improved quality, more accessible and more resilient healthcare system that can withstand and manage exogenous shocks in tandem with the public sector. The interplay and mutual dependence of the public and private sectors in healthcare have been amply demonstrated in the Covid-19 crisis. This will benefit “continuum-of-care” (COC) services, including Long Term Care (LTC), Post-Acute Care (PAC), Post-Acute Rehabilitation (PAR), physical therapy, home care and the broader field of disease management, specialized care in fields such as oncology services, cardiology centers, dialysis, ophthalmology, as well as the segment of women’s health. All these sectors will have a strong digital component and ideally follow a strategy to meet the need for accelerated integration of information flows and process management. Services that are “digitally enabled” or “technology enabled”, especially in integrated care and primary care networks, disease detection/testing/diagnostics, POCT (Point of Care Testing), and disease prevention will continue to be emerging investment sectors in healthcare. Finally, on the product side we expect locally produced healthcare products with local regional supply chains that are more resilient in the face of an international crisis, will be preferred over importation and dependence on international suppliers.

We believe these trends will educate our investment activity in the short- to mid-term. Many of the exciting new technologies, approaches and solutions that have been on the horizon for many years have been greatly accelerated by Covid-19. May this help to create a better and more effective and affordable healthcare system.