China and other emerging markets lead the world in the use of digital health technologies, according to a survey commissioned by Philips.
Healthcare professionals in China are more likely to recommend patients use technologies to self-track blood pressure and other health indicators than their peers in the West.
The Chinese healthcare sector's embrace of self-monitoring has contributed to the country becoming the biggest wearables market. Similar trends in other countries Philips classes as digital forerunners, such as India and Saudi Arabia, are supporting above-average growth.
Philips has identified ways in which emerging economies lead the West in adoption and use of digital health technologies since it began publishing its annual Future Health Index report. Back in 2016, the report noted that emerging markets led the world in data sharing. In China and the UAE, 58% and 46% of patients, respectively, had shared data from connected devices with healthcare professionals. In the U.K., Sweden and Germany, the figures were 26%, 17% and 12%, respectively.
That data point and other findings led Philips to identify the potential for emerging countries to leap ahead of established economies and become the forerunners in digital health technologies. Philips' latest survey of 15,000 patients and more than 3,000 healthcare professionals across 15 countries suggests that has now happened.
"In 2019, we see that some [countries] have already leapfrogged and these technologies are increasingly part of the everyday healthcare experience for both healthcare professionals and patients," Philips wrote in its latest Future Health Index report.
The conclusion is backed up by multiple findings. In Russia, Saudi Arabia, India and China, the proportion of healthcare professionals who use a digital health technology or mobile health app ranges from 81% to 94%. In Germany, the U.K., Australia and the U.S., the range spans 64% to 76%.
There are signs this is reshaping healthcare in the emerging economies. In China, 60% of healthcare professionals always or often advise patients to use digital health technologies to monitor their blood pressure. The average across all 15 surveyed countries is 44%.
Chinese patients are far more likely to act on self-collected information, too, with 80% of citizens who use digital technologies or mobile health apps contacting healthcare professionals on the basis of their data. The 15-country average is 47%. Citizens of Saudi Arabia and India are the next most proactive, with 74% and 70%, respectively, taking action as a result of self-tracked data.
The findings map onto forecasts of wearables market growth. Sales of the technologies in India and Saudi Arabia are tipped to grow at 5.8% and 5.6%, respectively, compared to a 4.5% average across all 15 countries.
Citizens of China, India and Saudi Arabia are more likely to have positive perceptions of the use of AI in healthcare. The countries, particularly China, have embraced telehealth to a greater extent, too, potentially because the low physician density makes remote consultations more attractive.
Philips thinks the forerunner countries can serve as examples for other countries and help spread the perceived benefits of technologies, such as the suggestion in the survey that patients who share data think they receive better quality care. However, the adoption of technology is creating new barriers to use. In Asia, healthcare professionals are far more likely than their European counterparts to have access to data sharing systems, but they are also more concerned about data privacy.