Health care outlook for 2019

Credit to Author: MARITES LANDICHO| Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2019 16:31:31 +0000


Late last year, a bicameral conference committee composed of representatives from both Houses of Congress approved the Universal Health Care (UHC) Bill, which seeks to enroll all Filipinos in the proposed National Health Insurance Program. This brings the country one step closer to providing health care for all Filipinos, whether employed or not.

At a time when great strides are being made in medicine and in the delivery of care, and equally serious challenges are cropping up, democratizing health care is not only just; the current circumstances, such as advances in technology, may make it easier for the government and health care providers to do so.

Deloitte’s 2019 Global health care outlook looks at some of these developments and trends that health care stakeholders – providers, governments, payers, consumers, and other companies/organizations – should watch out for.

According to Deloitte’s report, global health care spending is projected to increase at an annual rate of 5.4 percent in 2018-2022, a significant rise from 2.9 percent in 2013-2017. This is partly due to the expansion of health care coverage in developing markets, including the Philippines, where an estimated P257 billion would be needed to implement UHC in its first year. Advances in treatments and health technologies, rising health care labor costs, and the growing care needs of ageing populations also factor into this increased spending.

Speaking of the elderly population, life expectancy appears to continue to climb. It is projected to increase from 73.5 years in 2018 to 74.4 in 2022 – a major achievement for health care as this also means increasing years of productive life.

This would bring the number of people aged over 65 globally to more than 668 million, or about 11.6 percent of the total population. While this is expected to be most noticeable in Japan (where the share will likely reach almost 29 percent) and Western Europe (nearly 22 percent), some developing countries such as Argentina, Thailand, and China are starting to experience similar situations.

Aging populations and the rise of non-communicable diseases (most notably, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes), which accounted for 71 percent of the 56.9 million deaths reported worldwide in 2016, are shifting the health focus away from curing diseases to preventing and managing disease and promoting overall well-being in the long term.

This approach requires addressing the social determinants of health. Factors such as socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood and physical environment, employment, and social support networks often have a greater impact on health outcomes than does health care. Taking these factors into consideration can help reduce disparities in health care that often stem from economic disadvantages.

Here in the Philippines, for example, people living in remote areas are often underserved and have difficulty accessing even the most basic health care. Advances in virtual health or telehealth can turn this situation around, especially now that virtual health has gone beyond simply enabling video visits.

The Mayo Clinic, for example, is piloting an AI-powered nurse avatar that can collect data from wearables, sensors, and biometric devices, assess a patient’s symptoms and medical history, and analyze these combined data for a physician before he or she even comes face to face with the patient. An AI startup in Singapore has developed a mobile app that can assess chronic wounds and provide a preliminary assessment to nurses or other health care workers.

These advanced technologies can go a long way towards realizing the goal of universal health care, but of course, their effectivity hinges largely on reliable internet access and connectivity.

Other developments in the health care sector unsurprisingly involve some of the technology giants. Apple is working with a startup to enable iPhone users to review, store, and share their medical information – including laboratory results and allergy lists – using their smartphone. Google parent company Alphabet has partnered with a subsidiary of Nikon to work on detecting diabetic retinopathy. Google acquired an application program interface management company to create data pipes that will improve interoperability among hospitals, physicians, and patients.

Indeed, these are exciting times for the health care sector as digital technologies enable new business and care delivery models. These developments are helping health care professionals solve today’s problems and carve a path towards affordable, accessible, high-quality health care. There may be no better time to enact universal health care for all Filipinos.

The author is an Audit Partner at Navarro Amper & Co., the local member firm of Deloitte Southeast Asia Ltd. – a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited – comprising Deloitte practices operating in Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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