On Asian healthcare’s digital transformation and better quality of care

Norman Deery, Vice President of Clinical Effectiveness, Wolters Kluwer Health APAC, affirms that Asia is all-geared up for a digital revolution in healthcare, and identifies the challenges and opportunities for its realisation.

The future of healthcare is digital, and Asia is poised to take a huge leap to realise its healthcare system’s digital transformation. Norman Deery, Vice President of Clinical Effectiveness at Wolters Kluwer Health for Asia Pacific, believes the region is primed for this as evidenced by the wide adoption of advanced clinical decision support systems during the pandemic. More than 500 thousand UpToDate® users, and a significant number from Asia Pacific countries, have accessed its COVID-19 content topics. 

Deery worked for 30 years in the information technology industry prior to joining Wolters Kluwer, thus, has an excellent understanding of the blueprint underlying digital transformation. Shifting to the healthcare industry because of that “wonderful sense of achievement from helping people and improving the quality of life for others”, Deery shares his vision for a patient-centric health system for Asia – one that could also be prompted by technological innovation.

Digitising healthcare in Asia not only allows for efficient medical processes but also patient safety and clinical effectiveness, which are positively and consistently linked to a higher quality of care. Providing better quality of care, though most vital, is never an easy trail. In Asia, a number of apparent challenges may be addressed through innovative solutions.

Deery observes that physician ratio in the region’s emerging markets is a major problem. To illustrate, the number of physicians per 1,000 people in China is 1.9, in India 0.7, in Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines 1.2, in Thailand 0.4, and in Indonesia 0.2. These numbers are way lower than what communities need considering the increase in the ageing population and the prevalence of chronic conditions and diseases.  All these challenges add to the pressure of providing quality care in the most efficient way possible.  Wolters Kluwer’s solutions help by providing trusted recommendations at the point of care, where it matters most.  A clinician can typically search, locate, and review the information they need in approximately 1 minute.

Healthcare organisations in Asia also struggle to harmonise care across the entire healthcare system. “Medicine has become so fragmented that if you have doctors, nurses, pharmacists, patients, and everyone else in the healthcare continuum all making decisions based on disparate information, you simply can’t provide high quality or very effective care,” Deery says. With an evidence-based clinical decision support tool, however, these providers could have access to up-to-date medical information to help in their decision-making. Hence, they would be able to reduce unwanted variability in care across the system through enhancing medical decision-making and patient assessments, and through proactively alerting prospective patients of issues that need medical intervention.

Another problem, not just in Asia but globally, is erroneous diagnosis and medication. The World Health Organisation reports at least 5 patients dying every minute because of unsafe care, and four out of 10 patients harmed during primary and ambulatory health care due to errors in diagnosis, prescription, and medication. With new technologies like Wolters Kluwer’s UpToDate, healthcare providers can make the best clinical decisions, supported by updated and critically reviewed evidence, to save more lives.

Even in today’s situation where patients and physicians resort to virtual consultations, evidence-based solutions can add value to hospitals. As of date, Wolters Kluwer is working with telemedicine providers in Asia to integrate the benefits of harmonised and evidence-based care to patients. Additionally, Deery mentions that they are currently incorporating their solutions, such as UpToDate, Lexicomp, and Medi-Span, with a variety of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems providers so as to contribute to better data management coupled with the improvement of the quality of care.

There is also increasing support from governments and healthcare providers across the region to swiftly employ digital technologies. Over the years, governments are observed to increase their healthcare spending, thereby, increasing confidence that they would give continuous support to the health sector. Healthcare providers and patients likewise show eagerness in using mobile technologies and cloud-based solutions, hence, putting pressure on hospitals to integrate such solutions into their organisations.

Step by step, Asia could transform its healthcare system towards becoming more digital, not because other regions are doing it, but because of the necessity of providing better care for patients through proven technological solutions.

About UpToDate

Researchers at Harvard associated the use of UpToDate, the only clinical decision support resource associated with improved outcomes, with lower mortality rates and shorter lengths of hospital stay. Several other studies confirm UpToDate’s impact on learning, better clinical decisions, improved quality of care, patient safety, efficiency, and mortality.