A combination of ageing societies, more lifestyle diseases and a growing middle class is driving consumer interest in health and wellness in Asia-Pacific – presenting new opportunities for healthcare brands – a new study has revealed.

According to the J. Walter Thompson Intelligence APAC study, Well Economy: APAC Edition, many countries have too few doctors and hospitals, long waiting times for treatment and a disparity between the facilities available in towns and more rural areas.

New players – multinational, tech-savvy and consumer-minded – are stepping into this gap to provide the services consumers are seeking, blurring the lines between lifestyle and more formal professional healthcare.

Digital tech is giving consumers more knowledge and control of their own health, and enabling what Campaign Asia Pacific described as the “consumerisation of healthcare”.

“Across Asia, amid rising incomes and rising expectations, patients are acting more and more like consumers – moving from a passive to an active stance. In tandem, and perhaps in response, the medical world is borrowing from the lifestyle sectors,” said the report’s author, Chen May Yee, APAC Director, The Innovation Group.

“And with new players, particularly tech companies, starting to disrupt healthcare by exploiting inefficiencies, ‘traditional’ sectors need to embrace this change, or run the risk of getting left behind.”

The report’s researchers examined data from 2,500 consumers in China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia, looked at case studies, and carried out interviews with health and wellness experts.

They concluded that small, local start-ups, alongside well-established tech giants, such as Alibaba and Tencent, are already active in the market across the region in three key ways:
  • Tech that acts as medical matchmakers is connecting consumers directly to medical and healthcare providers.
  • Helping to remove the taboo surrounding healthcare matters – apps and social media campaigns are driving this change, especially around sexual and mental health.
  • Disrupting insurance. Only around half of consumers trust health insurance to help them stay healthy, the study found. A number of start-ups are trying to change this perception, and big insurance companies are starting to develop their own innovation and tech incubation centres, such as MetLife’s LumenLab in Singapore.
The study also detailed how the beauty, food and beverage, and retail sectors across Asia-Pacific are incorporating more health and wellness into their offerings.

Sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by WARC staff