Established companies and start-ups alike are recognising the role of digital to re-envision healthcare, and are offering innovative products and services that put customer health and wellbeing front-and-centre, and make healthcare more inclusive.

Prevention rather than cure

A key trend changing the future of health is the move towards well-being and prevention.

While traditionally individuals have only interacted with healthcare providers, tools or services when they are sick or injured, Deloitte predicts that healthcare providers will be more focused on sustaining well-being and providing preventative care in the future, rather than simply assessing conditions and treating illness.

And the behaviour of consumers is moving in the same direction too. Our recent research with the Economist Intelligence Unit found that communities in Asia are acutely aware of the connection between wellness and disease, and that this has only grown during the covid-19 pandemic.

At Prudential we are seizing the opportunity to meet the market’s changing needs and behaviours. We’re making the shift to go beyond protecting lives and paying claims to helping people live well, for longer. We’re doing this through digital tools and services that regularly engage customers to provide them with ongoing advice and support.

Our Pulse app uses AI-powered self-help tools and real-time information to help people make more informed decisions when it comes to managing their own health and wellbeing on an ongoing basis. We’ve done this by joining forces with innovative partners to deliver best-in-class health and wellbeing tools and services.

Using AI to provide faster and simpler health advice

AI is one of the technologies being applied by innovative companies to solve some of the challenges facing the healthcare industry today.

One such company is Pulse partner, Babylon Health. Babylon has developed a sophisticated AI-powered Symptom Checker that, after asking a few straightforward questions, can analyse a patient’s symptoms and provide accurate and actionable information on potential causes and possible next steps.

Babylon describes its AI as working ‘like a doctor’s brain’. But the key differentiator between AI and a real medic? Asia’s finite number of doctors are only available at certain times of the day and can only see one patient at a time. Babylon’s AI however, can see millions of patients concurrently, whenever and wherever, making access to healthcare care faster and simpler.

In addition, Babylon can also spot patterns in healthcare data to identify possible conditions that could impact the long-term health of individuals, prompting people to take a longer view of their health and wellness and to consider preventative action.

Connecting patients to real-life doctors online

There will of course be times when AI won’t suffice - when patients need to see a doctor. But for many patients physical location is often the biggest barrier to care. While urban populations within developed countries, for example, may have easy accessibility to medical professionals, rural populations in less developed nations are less likely to be so privileged.

This explains the explosion of telehealth services in recent years, which are providing communities across Asia access to high-quality care, regardless of location.

And as the pandemic has increased the risks of seeing a doctor in person, we’ve seen that these communities have responded with an increased willingness to embrace telehealth services.

One of Asia’s most successful telehealth offerings is Pulse partner, DoctorOnCall, a Malaysian-based telehealth service that allows patients to connect with doctors directly via chat, phone and video calls. Patients can speak to registered doctors, including general practitioners (GPs) and 50 different specialists - from pediatrics to neurologists to respiratory experts.

This enables patients to overcome geographical barriers when accessing healthcare advice. What’s more, during the pandemic telehealth has given patients access to crucial care, without putting themselves or healthcare professionals at risk of infection. Patients are able to not only consult with doctors and specialists but also receive prescriptions, which are delivered directly to their doorsteps.

Telehealth not only helps healthcare become more accessible, it also offers quality and affordable primary healthcare to everyone, everywhere, and takes the pressure off healthcare systems by reducing waiting times for the patients. It is likely that telehealth will become far more prevalent and interwoven with government-run health services in the future.

Ushering in a new era of health

Digital transformation is already reshaping the future of healthcare. And it is not only technology-focused companies that are innovating to shake up the existing healthcare model - legacy health providers are also disrupting themselves using digital tools and services to reshape healthcare as we know it.

This shift is leveraging technologies such as AI and big data to put the individual front and centre, to shift people’s mindset to viewing wellness as a critical component of health, and to improve the inclusivity of healthcare.

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