Many keen to take control of health with tech devices

77% surveyed agree that connected care tech will come in handy to improve overall health

The majority of Singaporeans may be unfamiliar with technology that can help them monitor and take control of their health, but they are equally open to using it.

According to findings by Dutch technology firm Philips, only 29 per cent of Singaporeans say they are knowledgeable about such "connected care technology" such as home health-monitoring devices, fitness trackers and wearables, and mobile health applications.

At the same time, they are optimistic about its role in healthcare, with 77 per cent agreeing that such technology is important for improving the population's overall health.

Another survey, by insurance firm Cigna, found the average Singaporean to be keen on making use of healthcare technology.

Of the 1,000 surveyed, four in 10 said they owned a health application or gadget. Another two in 10 said they did not own any but planned to do so.

Four in 10 also said they are willing to share their health data with a third party for medical research, although they also had concerns on data security.

Cigna surveyed more than 14,000 people from 13 economies in total to get a sense of key concerns in areas such as finances, family, and workplace health.

The survey by Philips, named the Future Health Index, assessed the ability of healthcare systems in 19 countries to cope with problems such as an ageing population and higher costs.

LONG-TERM GOOD

How can we not take to the healthy lifestyle when everything is given to us on a platter?

MS LENA TSIA, Cigna Singapore's chief executive, about the growing array of gadgets to monitor our health, from step trackers to medication reminder apps.

The Philips survey also measured the perception locals had of their healthcare systems versus the reality in those systems in three areas: access to healthcare, integration of healthcare systems and adoption of connected care technology.

Around 1,500 Singaporeans were polled online and their responses processed to give an overall rating for each area between 0 and 100. This was compared against the healthcare system's actual performance in each area based on data from the World Health Organisation, World Bank and International Data Corporation.

Singaporeans rated their healthcare systems at 52.8 in terms of how widely used connected care technology was, compared to 81.2 for how widely used it actually is. This was the third-highest gap among the countries polled, behind France and Australia.

"Singaporeans think they have enough healthcare resources but these new models of healthcare that connect patients and doctors can empower them to take care of their own health," said Philips Asean Pacific chief executive Caroline Clarke.

In fact, said Dr Kang Soon-Hock, head of the social science core at the Singapore University of Social Sciences' school of arts and social sciences, technology can help to bring down healthcare costs and make it easier to care for certain groups of people. "For example, medical professionals can provide remote consultation and care for elderly patients with mobility issues without requiring them to leave their homes," Dr Kang said.

There were experts, however, who felt that some of the technology was as yet unproven, such as fitness trackers, and was therefore not widely used.

Cigna Singapore's chief executive Lena Tsia added that growing availability of technological means to track one's health - from step trackers to medication reminder apps - bodes well for Singaporeans' health in the long term.

"How can we not take to the healthy lifestyle when everything is given to us on a platter?" she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'Many keen to take control of health with tech devices'. Print Edition | Subscribe