Telemedicine? A big growth market in ASEAN countries

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The consumer-focused digital health market in Asia could grow from $37.4 billion in 2020 to more than $100 billion in 2025. This growth will be driven primarily by telemedicine

Increasing population and demand for medical services is straining the health care system in several Southeast Asian countries. In Indonesia, for example, the combination of the urban expansion of the capital Jakarta and the geographic nature of the territory divided into archipelagos has made it difficult for the more than 270 million inhabitants to access health care. Data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) report that in 2021 the Indonesian health service could offer 6.95 doctors per 10,000 people, a figure below the 9.28 doctors per 10,000 in Thailand and 7.51 in Myanmar. Indonesia, the fourth most populated country in the world, thus appears to have far fewer doctors per capita than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average. In fact, these numbers are worrisome when compared, for example, to the figure for Italy where there are 17.3 physicians for every 10,000 inhabitants-already believed to be a lower number than needed-or when compared even to the figure for Japan where there turn out to be 26.14 physicians for every 10,000 inhabitants. 

Companies offering telemedicine services fit into this context. These companies offer remote medical consultations through apps thus making the health care offered to citizens more convenient and faster. During the Pandemic from Covid-19 and to follow, competition among companies in this market has grown exponentially leading to an expansion of services offered in this field. Some of these apps, in fact, offer not only consultation services but also home delivery of prescriptions and medications. 

For example, Halodoc, a telemedicine app launched in 2016, in addition to allowing customers throughout Indonesia to have online consultations with more than 20,000 licensed physicians in the country at any given time, already delivers prescriptions and medicines in 400 Indonesian cities, managing, in 30 percent of them, to make delivery in just 15 minutes. This Indonesian start-up already has 20 million monthly users in the country but aims to reach 100 million in the next few years by aiming to expand its reach to Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Alodokter, a telemedicine company founded in 2014, also stands out in the Indonesian context. This app boasts more than 80,000 affiliated doctors who can prescribe drugs and send them within hours to their patients.

Also in Indonesia, Harya Bimo, chief executive officer of Klinik Pintar, is instead determined to maintain a hybrid model in which technology does not preclude clinics where patients can go to be present on the ground. In fact, Klinik Pintar is an Indonesian health technology startup that not only helps its users book teleconsultations, virtual health services but also offers its clients in-person clinic sessions.

The telemedicine sector appears to be growing strongly in other Southeast Asian countries. For example, in Singapore, the telemedicine company Doctors Anywhere, which has a user base of 2.5 million in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam, plans to acquire Asian Healthcare Specialists (AHS) a multidisciplinary medical group with more than 10 facilities providing services, including anesthesia, dermatology, family medicine, and gastroenterology. In this way, the company could follow up on online consultations by also providing patients with visits to AHS centers. In the Philippines, citizens will also be able to benefit from a single technology super-app starting in the coming months resulting from the consolidation of three health care companies-KonsultaMD, HealthNow and AIDE-promised by the Philippine Ayala Group.

The apps mentioned are just some of the telemedicine startups being developed in ASEAN countries. A McKinsey report predicts that the consumer-focused digital health market in Asia could grow from $37.4 billion in 2020 to more than $100 billion in 2025. In this context, telemedicine, followed by electronic pharmacies, will be the main growth driver.

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