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Pulse of Asia report shows 81% say technology improved access to health services

The latest report “Pulse of Asia: The Health of Asia Barometer” saw that respondents in Asia are very much interested in improving their health but are hindered by several factors including the lack of resources. Wearables and health apps, however, allowed them to be more conscious of their health than before.

The Asia-wide research conducted by The Economist Intelligence and commissioned by Prudential, the regional headquarters of Pru Life UK, finds the potential of technology to directly combat these challenges. Four in five respondents (81%) say technology has already improved their access to health services, while three in five (60%) believe it has improved its affordability.

The report surveyed 5,000 respondents across Asia during the second half of 2020.

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“Three years from now, about 71% of those surveyed said they would rely on technology even more to improve their natural health and well being,” said Andrew Wong, chief health officer, Prudential Corp. Asia. “It indicates that digital tools and services can help the field get in a lot of Asian markets.”

Wellness optimism

The report also found that half of the respondents (54%) believe that medical care is accessible and affordable. However, only less than a quarter (22%) say they can easily access exercise and fitness facilities that would help improve their personal health and wellness in the coming year.

But not everyone can easily afford to live a healthier life with 56% of survey respondents say financial constraints hinder them from prioritizing their health. It follows then that this finding is experienced in less developed markets.

Still, the Health of Asia Barometer report finds that “income levels do not dictate health and wellness optimism.” People in less developed countries seem not to mind the challenges and remain optimistic, compared to the more developed market, about the state of their personal health.

Mobility restrictions because of the pandemic don’t stop people from seeking more control over their physical health with 52% of respondents engaging in physical activities and adopting a healthier diet.

The context of health in the report is not limited to physical only but also refers to mental health. Around one-quarter (24%) have also sought to improve their mental health, a need underscored by the 34% who said the COVID-19 crisis has caused them greater stress, anxiety, or depression.

“The government needs to encourage open discussions because (mental health) is more pressing than ever due to the growing toll the pandemic is having on individual’s emotional well-being,” Wong said.

Pulse app

To fulfill the potential of digital healthcare, the report recommends greater public-private collaboration, suggesting that governments partner with private companies to deliver digitally innovative ways to promote and manage health and wellness among citizens.

The report also recommends that governments look to promote connected health devices, but that these need to be underpinned by strict data governance. Data security will enable health data to be safely centralized, empowering governments to design better policies and build more targeted healthcare infrastructure.

For its part, Pru Life UK has made digital healthcare accessible providing health information and nudging users to manage their personal well-being. Within 15 months from launch, Pulse has been downloaded over 12 million times across 11 Asian markets.

Pulse, with its artificial intelligence-powered features such as Healthcheck and Symptom Checker, allows its users to proactively monitor different facets of their health and gives them an overview of their habits, risks, and possible illnesses for them to make educated health decisions. Along with its core features, the app also offers ‘Health Awareness Content’ and ‘My Communities’, through which users can browse relevant health news and reminders, as well as interact with others to talk about their own health tips and achievements. Since it was launched in the Philippines in February 2020, Pulse has been downloaded more than three million times.