Asia Pacific 2016 Medtech Forum was held a few weeks ago in Singapore. It was organized by Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed) in order to improve access, innovation, and collaboration across the medical industry in the region. The need for this was outlined in the opening remarks by Vladimir Makatsaria, Chairman of Johnson & Johnson Global Surgery Group in Asia Pacific. He stressed that while the Asian population is growing and aging fast (in China alone in the next few years there are expected to be over 300m people aged over 65), access to quality healthcare across the region is lacking. In a majority of countries in Asia Pacific, it is estimated that it would take over 100 years to reach the same doctor/patient ratio as Western countries currently have. The driving forces, current trends, and challenges of addressing the medical technology aspects of this were discussed during the Global Leadership Dialogue session of the forum, which we recently had a chance to review.
The participants were Mr Koji Nakao (Corporate Adviser And Former Chairman, Terumo Corporation), Mr Gary Pruden (Worldwide Chairman of Medical Devices and Executive Vice President, Johnson & Johnson), and Ms Anna Braun (Vice-Chairman, APACMed and President, Asia Pacific, B.Braun Medical Industries). The debate was moderated by Mr Martin Dewhurst (Director and Senior Partner, McKinsey London). What was highlighted as unique to Asia Pacific were the instabilities and uncertainties in the region that have to be balanced against the opportunity to reach so many patients. Also, the diversity of the population across the region was cited as both a challenge and an opportunity, with the need to create local leadership centers across Asia with decision making capabilities to cater to local demands.
Mr. Pruden thought that great success lay in the convergence of healthcare technologies in the future, like smart-enabled devices and drug/device combinations. Mr. Nakao added that an increase in population, especially aging populations across the region, would be the driving force of the development of medical technologies in the region. Ms. Braun’s thoughts lay more with the diversity of the population in the Asia Pacific region driving the need for new solutions and new technologies. The need for connectivity of the data was stressed. The comparison of data across such huge and diverse populations can prove to be extremely valuable. Thus the need for cooperation across all sectors of the industry, including the regulatory sector.
Speaking of the regulatory sector, Mr. Pruden stressed the need to align reimbursement and regulatory approval processes, the need to bring together these separate groups, in addition to combining inspections that would be recognizable by different industry regulators. This would save resources on both sides and reduce cost and complexity of bringing emerging medical technologies to the market. Ms. Braun also added the need to share data across the regulatory agencies.
So the needs of the diverse and aging population that is currently lacking proper health care access is driving the need for new solutions. However, companies are not only looking for value-based healthcare improvements. New technologies should not only bring more value at lower cost, but also look to improve patient outcomes, improve patient satisfaction, and try to do that with improved efficiency. In addition, the impoverished economies in some of the Asia Pacific countries are producing innovative solutions from doctors in the field which should be examined and integrated into the bigger picture based on their merits.
There is indeed a need to focus on educating doctors, create an open dialogue among industry providers and regulators, and foster greater cooperation in an attempt to catch up the supply curve of affordable and accessible healthcare to the demand curve of the aging and diverse population in the region.