Written by Maarten Kelder, EVP Strategy and Corporate Development


Even the most polished among us suffer from momentary lapses of coordination. The fleeting inability to shape thoughts into words. The moment we struggle to spell the simplest of words. While such synaptic misfires are bizarre, their irregularity makes them more comical than concerning.

But when the left hand repeatedly fails to talk to the right, when the mistakes are the result of systemic organisational failings, when these mistakes cost lives, then we’ve got a problem.

Unfortunately, this is what’s happening in healthcare today. Fragmentation of medical records is a huge problem and, in Asia, it’s rife.

What this means is hospital staff usually do not have access to a patient’s full medical history when they recommend treatments. Individual symptoms are addressed but often at the expense of a patient’s long-term health. After all, ill health is a difficult enough problem to solve for doctors who do have access to comprehensive and reliable medical histories; for those that don’t, the challenge is often insurmountable, and the price we pay is loss of life.

The solution is integrated care, defined by the World Health Organisation as “a concept bringing together inputs, delivery, management and organisation of health services” in a way that broadens access and improves quality, user satisfaction and efficiency.

As the WHO’s definition implies, the foundations of integrated care extend far beyond the consolidation of health records. Other recommended policies include lump payments tied to specific health outcomes rather than individual treatments to promote collaboration between specialists; standardisation of roles and procedures to elevate industry standards; and the training of more general physicians at the expense of specialists to encourage more doctors to be accountable for a patient’s overall wellbeing.

And so, while improving the region’s physical infrastructure remains an important task to which Zuellig Pharma will continue to allocate significant resources, digitisation undoubtedly holds the key to unlocking the full potential of healthcare in Asia. By providing doctors and nurses with the full picture of a patient’s medical history, it reduces costs, improves efficiency and, most importantly, saves lives.

The good news is Asia’s developing countries find themselves somewhat better placed than their more developed neighbours to implement such far-reaching digitisation. That statement may sound paradoxical, but it isn’t. Emerging economies can avoid the missteps made by advanced industrialised nations through careful analysis of their histories, and use widely accessible, modern technologies to bypass any unnecessary development stages i.e. leapfrogging.

Today, with wide access to cloud-based technologies, it is far easier for healthcare institutions to take control of their digitisation, something that is vitally important if we are to introduce IT systems that make life simpler not more complicated.

We recognise the potential of data analytics tools to help optimise our internal supply chain to provide better insights to our clients to encourage integrated care. The team is currently working on a blockchain solution that provides full product traceability allowing us to keep track of temperature, humidity, and pressure through every point in a product’s journey. In addition, they are also exploring additional applications of blockchain technology, focusing on supply chain management and financing.

Technology can also help clinics deliver integrated care that treats a patient’s collective needs rather than their individual symptoms. That’s why we’ve invested in Klinify, a cloud-based clinic management solution that facilitates the crucial consolidation of medical records, and Docquity, a secure peer-to-peer learning network that allows doctors to discuss individual cases, browse scientific journals and participate in educational activities.

That Asia needs to improve its health infrastructure is an unavoidable reality. But while all paths lead to Rome, the evidence clearly suggests that those basking in the glow of modern technologies will get us there a lot faster.