Welcome to the world of wellness tech. The promise: preventative healthcare and habit formation to make us healthier, save us unnecessary expense, and ease pressure on healthcare systems. Currently, this concept seems as pertinent as ever as we continue the battle against COVID-19 and have decreased access to treatment during the pandemic.
Wellness technology is not exactly a new concept — Fitbit and other wearable fitness devices have been around for more than a decade. However, the current global crisis presents a unique opportunity for wellness tech startups in Southeast Asia to address growing health concerns and disrupt the industry further.
The wellness industry in Southeast Asia: Challenges and scope
The race to digitise just about everything, particularly since the pandemic hit, has highlighted once again the ever-present threat from hackers, as Singapore saw in 2018. Cybersecurity is one of the most significant considerations as Southeast Asian countries move towards the digitisation of health records. It is a genuine threat and one that not even developed countries can protect themselves against entirely. For wellness tech startups, data handling is one of the most critical factors in their ability to succeed.
Cybersecurity threats aside, Southeast Asia continues to be a hub for groundbreaking innovations in the health and wellness field. In Singapore, a team of researchers, clinicians and academics are working towards a solution to antibiotic resistance using portable DNA sequencing technology. Singapore has also made progress in using robotics and AI for cancer detection purposes. The region is also making massive leaps forward in areas such as genome tracing and 3D printed prosthesis.
The region is beginning to see partnerships spring up between fintech startups, banks, online payment platforms, and healthcare providers, allowing clients greater access to virtual clinics. One such collaboration is between Singapore-based DoctorAnywhere and ViettelPay, which helps Vietnamese citizens to pay for and get an online consultation.
Public health is no exception, and what we are seeing is a drive towards preventative health and healthy habits. Singapore’s partnership with Fitbit is one example of a public health strategy to put more onus on the individual to take care of their own health day-to-day. The idea is to give as individualised advice as possible, nudging people into keeping good habits. All the while, they are collecting and collating data to use with AI and machine learning to develop further ways of promoting healthy eating, exercise and better sleep patterns.
With the wellness trend rising in Southeast Asia, more and more of its population are showing an increased interest in using apps and virtual tools to stay healthy.
Let’s take a look at some of the startups in the region that claim to hold the key to better health.
Based in Singapore and India, Vivant, whose parent company is Symple Wellness Platform, operates in Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East. Their long term goal is disease prediction based on data collection and analysis, although the company says this may take several years to achieve. Their flagship product is ‘Nyra’—an app which helps women track their fertility and wellness. Aside from Nyra, they offer software solutions to insurers, healthcare providers and corporates.
With a similar focus as Vivant, UCARE.AI also makes health predictions with the help of AI. They offer services to the “3Ps”: Patients, Payers and Providers. They claim that their data management, machine learning and AI can benefit all their clients by preserving health, preventing disease, enhancing insurance coverage, and providing insights that ultimately lead to the better allocation of healthcare resources.
Manila-based zennya is the Uber of the wellness world. The young startup delivers massage therapists to your door to help relieve a host of medical conditions. Its services are data-driven and operate on a rating system. Quick to react to the pandemic, zennya created a telemedicine and health monitoring app for workplaces.
Operating in four Southeast Asian countries—Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia, BookDoc’s speciality is connecting patients with healthcare providers at home or abroad. The added incentive with BookDoc is that they offer an integrated system, meaning you can plan everything around your health appointment—travel, lodging, food and even entertainment.
Firmly focused on healthy eating, boxgreen, based in Singapore, is a startup that delivers nutritional, responsibly sourced, ethical, sustainable snacks direct to your door. They want you to eat healthily while feeling confident that every aspect of the company is doing good for you, and the planet.
The healthcare and wellness sector is rapidly changing, and the COVID-19 pandemic has sped up this process. With so much information at our fingertips, there has never been more incentive to take care of our health. Wellness tech is increasing in popularity, and in a region renowned for swiftly adopting new technologies, it is sure to be a priority post-pandemic.