Don’t Just Monitor Your Health, Do Something

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, today released the second set of findings from its Healthy Living in Asia survey. The survey of 4,000 people in Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, and Thailand, conducted with research agency Kantar Profiles Network, reveals a gap between health monitoring and action in the region: while people are using personal health technology to track their health more than they did before the pandemic, many are not yet actively taking corrective action based on the health data collected. With personal health technologies will play an even bigger role in self-care in Asia, it will be key to empower consumers to use and understand them better to improve preventive health in 2023 and beyond.

The survey found that the pandemic has driven interest in preventive health with nearly a third (30%) of respondents in the region now using personal health devices more than they did before the pandemic. In Singapore, heart health (40%), oral health (26%), sleep (34%), and nutrition (37%) are amongst the conditions that people are now monitoring at least monthly. Despite the increase in monitoring, 41% of people in Singapore say that they rarely or never take action based on the health data collected and 55% claim they modify their health-related behaviour but feel they can do more to stay healthy.

Crucially, the regional average figures show that a doctor’s recommendation is the biggest motivator to start acting on personal health data-based insights (47%). In Singapore, 42% of people are more inclined to act on their digital health data if recommended by their doctor and healthcare providers. However, only 23% of Singaporeans are sharing this data regularly with their doctors or healthcare providers, with concerns around data privacy (35%) and a lack of know-how on sharing health data (20%) cited by respondents amongst the most common reasons why they are not yet sharing the data as often or widely as they could be. 15% of respondents also admitted that they don’t know how to share data collected from their personal health devices with their doctor and 22% cite their limited awareness of health technology as a barrier to taking better care of their health.

“It is really encouraging to see that so many people in Singapore recognise the importance of maintaining their long-term good health and managing existing conditions. Monitoring is a great first step, but to see real benefits, more actions must be taken when it comes to health,” said Ivy Lai, General Manager, Philips Singapore. “As the government looks to ramp up its focus on preventive health via the Healthier SG initiative, there is also an urgent need for infrastructures to be put in place to connect healthcare professionals to personal health data in a safe and secure manner to ensure health recommendations benefit from such insights. Education is also key to improve data literacy and usage. Our research highlights an urgent need for educating both the general population and healthcare professionals alike when it comes to using data and insights to improve preventive health in Singapore,” added Ms Lai.

The latest Philips Future Health Index report, global research among healthcare leaders across 15 countries worldwide shows that APAC health sector is looking to data and predictive technologies as essential foundations of future healthcare systems. Confidence in data usage is high, with the majority healthcare leaders in the region saying that they can extract actionable insights from the available data (85%), have access to the necessary technology (84%) to utilise data. One in five (21%) healthcare leaders feel that staff training and education would be one of the best ways to help their facility to do more with data. Overcoming challenges such as data silos, technical infrastructure limitations, data privacy and security concerns, difficulties in managing high data volume would further improve data utilisation.

Another way to encourage action might lie in making health technology smarter. Consumers in the region displayed an openness to interacting with health data according to the survey. In Singapore, health data-based prompts on personal health devices (35%) and simplified design of personal health technologies to make data easier to understand (37%) ranked highly as motivators for action.

A Passive Mindset Towards Staying Healthy

In another nationwide survey conducted in end-2022 commissioned by Lifebuoy and Doctor Anywhere to understand Singaporeans’ stance on preventive health, the nationwide study covered over 1,000 individuals. The study found that whilst 7 in 10 understand that preventive health is applicable to them even if currently healthy, a large majority of them are still opting for a passive approach to healthcare.

A worrying statistic put forth by the survey conducted at the end of 2022 showed that 60% have not scheduled a health screening in the last 12 months, despite its importance in early detection and prevention of the onset of chronic diseases, and the holistic approach to preventive health as illustrated by Singapore’s ‘Healthier SG’ strategy.

The survey illustrates that there is an inherent need to correct preventive health perceptions and educate individuals on the importance of taking steps towards better heath on the onset of early symptoms.

“To encourage data-driven proactive health action by the consumer in 2023 and beyond, we need to do more than connect healthcare practitioners to personal health data. We see potential in also equipping consumers with smart recommendations to act on their data to achieve this. One example of how we’re already doing this is through smart toothbrushes that are linked to consumer apps, effectively offering personalised guidance on brushing behaviour after analysing users’ habits and usage tendencies,” said Muir Keir, Business Leader, Personal Health, Philips ASEAN Pacific.

Apart from leveraging on technology, Singaporeans are encouraged by real-life examples of how other people are modifying their lifestyles and behaviours based on their digital health data (37%) and insights.

However, Singaporeans have demonstrated proactiveness in engaging with more mainstream practices such as healthier diets (51%) and regular exercise (57%) when taking action to improve their own general long-term health – only 7% of the respondents mentioned having made no effort in this regard.

“The approach to preventive health should take the form of inculcating a systematic mindset that reinforces regular maintenance – achieved through comprehensive education and a nationwide, long-term healthcare strategy. Where brands and organisations come in would be on providing channels and opportunities for individuals to take the next step in actively pursuing this endeavour and that is where partnerships like the one forged between Lifebuoy and Doctor Anywhere come into play,” said Khim Poh Yin, Global Lead Lifebuoy, Unilever.

The potential of telehealth services in taking charge of one’s health

When exploring potential solutions to encourage preventive health-seeking behaviour, a strong belief around telehealth services driving preventive health adoption was apparent, with two-thirds of respondents expressing support towards online consultations and their role in the healthcare ecosystem.
However, there is still an action gap among Singaporeans – of the majority who expressed an awareness of tele-consulting services, nearly half of them have never tried it. This was largely attributed to their preference for in-person consults (75%), in addition to cynicism around the perceived efficacy of seeing a doctor online (56%). Furthermore, over 4 in 10 were unsure on how to engage in tele-consulting services.

That said, the benefits of tele-consulting were apparent amongst respondents who have engaged in the service – convenience (51%) and time saving (49%) were identified by this group of respondents as key reasons for adopting this behaviour.

“While Singaporeans today are taking a greater interest in their health, there is a need to shift mindsets towards adopting preventive steps for early detection of illness and chronic conditions, which will also reduce the financial burden of falling ill. With most Singaporeans surveyed still facing hurdles in embracing this shift, our collaboration with Lifebuoy aims to help raise awareness through educational campaigns and enable them to take small steps to secure their future health, even as we strive to make healthcare simple, accessible, and efficient for all,” said Lim Wai Mun, Founder and CEO of Doctor Anywhere.

Images: Envato

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