More tech start-ups in healthcare springing up

Growing demand as people seek greater personalisation and convenience from service providers, says expert

With connectivity at nearly everyone's fingertips, the tech-driven consumer healthcare industry in Asia is estimated to be worth billions of dollars today.

Associate Professor Sarah Cheah, from the Department of Management and Organisation at the National University of Singapore Business School, told The Straits Times that close to 900 investors helped seal health-tech deals in 2015 in Asia, up 25 per cent from 2014.

And the industry keeps growing.

Prof Cheah said that given the factors of an ageing population, growing middle-class affluence and rising healthcare costs, more healthcare start-ups can be expected in areas such as chronic disease management and digital diagnostics as well as consumer health and wellness.

She said: "As financial risks in healthcare are being shifted from institutional payers to individual consumers in the form of higher insurance premiums, consumers face rising cost burdens and expect more personalised and convenient services from service providers in the healthcare sector.

"Tech-based healthcare start-ups that can fulfil this growing demand... at affordable prices are likely to do well."

A survey by insurance firm Cigna published this year found the average Singaporean to be open to making use of healthcare technology.

Dr Peter Ting, a cardiologist at Gleneagles Hospital, is the co-founder of Cardiatrics, one of several tech-based healthcare start-ups based in Singapore.
Dr Peter Ting, a cardiologist at Gleneagles Hospital, is the co-founder of Cardiatrics, one of several tech-based healthcare start-ups based in Singapore. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Of the 1,000 surveyed, four in 10 said they owned a health application or gadget.

Another two in 10 said they did not own any but planned to.

In Singapore, more and more tech-enabled healthcare start-ups have sprung up to offer a myriad of services to meet this demand.

From an app that allows patients to find and connect with doctors directly to another that allows customers to have a personalised meal designed by dietitians, the world of health and wellness is literally at people's fingertips.

Several start-ups based in Singapore, such as Cardiatrics, RingMD and PX Plate, are making healthcare services more accessible by bringing doctors, medical services and healthy eating right to the user's smartphone.

Said Dr Peter Ting, a cardiologist at Gleneagles Hospital and co-founder of Cardiatrics: "Having healthcare services on the digital platform allows for the service to become more accessible in many ways.

"Now, patients don't have to go down to a centre several times a week to see a few different doctors. They can have a whole healthcare team easily accessible through one device. It allows us to make better use of resources and expertise in an efficient and effective way. It also allows for timely feedback and more effective monitoring."

More and more patients are also using apps to enhance their clinical treatment. Associate Professor James Yip of NUS' Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine said he sees patients increasingly making use of health-tech applications that help them attain better health. "More patients are now tracking their steps per day and engaging their physicians on their exercise profile. Some even have heart-rate monitors as an adjunct to exercise," he said.

Beyond being strictly medical, tech-based healthcare start-ups have also opened up a world of health and wellness to anyone with a smartphone and an Internet service. From managing insurance policies to eating better, the Singaporean start-up space is full of new and innovative ideas to help the consumer live better and well.

Heart surgery patient adopts healthy lifestyle, thanks to an app

Mr Veradej Phipatanasuphorn began using digital platform Cardiatrics after undergoing open heart surgery and went from being overweight at 81kg to 70.5kg (above) now.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

A computer programmer by trade, he had an unsustainable lifestyle - a lot of stress, little sleep, no exercise and a reckless diet.

Mr Veradej Phipatanasuphorn, 41, never tried to change his lifestyle until he was diagnosed with a heart murmur last year, followed by a near-fatal valve rupture.


Personalised healthy meals, with help from a 'digital dietitian'

Px Plate's head dietitian, Ms Claudia Correia, and chef, Mr Thomas Chew, with one of the healthy meals prepared. The company's app will launch in the middle of next month.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Eating well is not always easy, but reporter Cheow Sue-Ann gets some help from a new app.