The global COVID-19 pandemic has hit healthcare hard, considering the immense pressure for the sector to build up capacity, to protect its workforce, to coordinate across public response and policy, and to assure and serve the populace in many stages of worry or disease. As the government urged or mandated populations to stay at home and as hospitals turned away patients for non-COVID-19 related ailments, digital health and telemedicine supplemented the strained delivery system.
Digital health had already been steadily on the rise. This is due to the proliferation of online technology innovations, the increasing consumerism of healthcare, and an increasing chronic disease burden. Even without the added impetus provided by COVID-19, which will be discussed later in the article, China’s online medical services market was expected to reach over 59 million users by the end of 2020. It is expected to grow over 20 times by 2026, reaching an expected market size of USD 28 billion. This trend is expected to continue, with Asian consumers continuing to be one of the leading regions globally for digital health. Asian consumers are more ready for a digital healthcare future than their global peers are. This is according to Health on Demand, a newly launched study Guy Carpenter-affiliates Oliver Wyman and Mercer conducted in 2019, which suggests that:
- Respondents from Asian countries (India, China, Indonesia, and Singapore) are more excited by digital health (78 percent versus 66 percent globally)
- 61 percent of Chinese consumers consider themselves “early adopters” of new technology (versus 38 percent globally)
- Lower barriers to adoption, with a higher proportion of the respondents willing to share personal information for healthcare purposes (94 percent versus 85 percent globally)
COVID-19 has helped fast-track online health innovation out of necessity. But it remains to be seen whether those users and use cases will be sustained following a return to “normal.”