Ageing is a phenomenon that is impacting all countries, and Singapore is a prime example of countries that are disproportionately impacted given its higher life expectancies and low birth rates.
Given that it is currently still in an early stage to shift from the nursing home model to the newly initiated community-based eldercare, YCP Solidiance’s latest report titled “The Future of Eldercare in Singapore” highlights the need to integrate technology into the current care regime. This creates opportunities for the varied stakeholders in the eldercare market, including telemedicine and assistive technology.
Opportunities for Telemedicine Players
Telemedicine is still in its nascent stage, although the adoption has been boosted further amidst the COVID-19 situation. Telemedicine could play a pivotal role in supporting the community-based care strategy, especially in addressing the long waiting time in public healthcare facilities which can go up to 77 minutes for a consultation, and up to 3 hours with no prior appointments.
The report outlined the opportunities in the provision of telemedicine Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products, including complex care and chronic disease self-management, and other related telemedicine services.
The telemedicine market in Singapore is currently heavily focused on basic systems and is still relatively underdeveloped. Telemedicine SaaS players which provide more advanced telemedicine services will have an opportunity to penetrate and play a bigger role in the local medical scene through partnerships with governmental healthcare organisations.
Furthermore, as telemedicine is likely becoming a new normal for follow-up consultations and family practitioner visits, there is room for more telemedicine providers to enter the market and scale-up as the number of users grows. In addition, there is also a potential for other categories of telehealth to take-off in the market, including telecoaching, that could help to keep the elderly engaged within the compounds of their community, especially if they do not have the ability to leave their home for physical activity.
However, several challenges lie ahead, with the most pertinent being the coverage of telemedicine in key insurance programs. Another important challenge is the relatively lower ability to use technology hampering the ability of the elderly to use telemedicine services.
Assistive Technology for Independent Living
With the move towards community care, technology is set to play a larger role in the lives of elderly Singaporeans, to support their increased independence in caring for their own health. The government is also supporting the adoption of assistive technology through the Seniors Mobility and Enabling Fund, which provides subsidies to Singaporean seniors requiring mobility devices for independent living in the community.
The viability of home sensors is increasingly being explored for the elderly in Singapore, with the following few pilot programs introduced, such as HoME+ and SHINE Seniors Project. Companies that have the applicable assistive technologies could consider a partnership with local Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) in providing the necessary hardware and systems in the homes of the elderly.
Technology wearables have also been increasingly explored, with GovTech gathering designs of wearables among local universities to pilot the usage of portable alert buttons that will allow an elderly person to seek help if an emergency occurs outside their home. This signals an opportunity for firms to enter as over-the-counter products, or in partnership with public agencies to reach consumers through issuances and sales by the government.