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Issue 4 Features from our global

Digital health in Asia market research experts

Digital health
in Asia
Findings from a survey into the
use of digital channels amongst
healthcare consumers in Asia
In Asia the physician is still regarded as the key source of
trustworthy information and for many remains the guardian of
the patients health. However studies such as those referenced
in the Journal of the RSM1 have shown that the physician-patient
communication channel can be inefficient and result in sub-
optimal clinical outcomes. Around 50% of the information given
by medical practitioners is immediately forgotten and from that
which is remembered, around 50% is recalled incorrectly.

From our own market research, we have identified that many

patients, particularly those with long term chronic illnesses,
frustrated by the lack of time that their doctor has to answer their
questions, are turning to other sources of information to help
manage their condition. In Asia, patients tend to avoid asking
their doctor questions for fear of being scolded. Culturally, it is
very rare for patients to challenge the doctor or demand
additional information.

With the increase in internet penetration and mobile access

amongst the urban population in Asia, we wanted to find out how
digital channels are being utilised by consumers seeking
healthcare support and assess the opportunities for marketers in
the digital space. The Research Partnership commissioned
fieldwork supplier AIP to conduct a short online primary research
study amongst 1,238 health consumers across a range of age
groups and life stages in 6 Asian markets. 1
Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine report Patients memory for medical

Our Free Thinkers

Pei-Li Teh, Associate Director Marc Yates, Director Asia Pacific and Emerging Markets
Pei-Li has extensive experience of handling qualitative and Marc Yates is Managing Director of the Research Partnership Asia
quantitative research projects across various therapyareas from and has 27 years experience of market research, specialising in
oncology to psoriasis in the emerging markets. She was healthcare research since 1996. He has lived and worked in Asia
previously employed by TNS / Kantar Health and holds a for the last 13 years, and was originally based in Shanghai before
Bachelor of Social Sciences (Hons) in Communication moving to Singapore. Marc is a regular speaker at industry events
&Business. and has presented papers on Emerging Markets at EphMRA and
PBIRG conferences.
Issue 4 Features from our global
Digital health in Asia market research experts

Key findings

Firstly we asked respondents if they had ever accessed the internet When considering what they are likely to do if they were
looking for healthcare information. Nine in ten (89%) of respondents diagnosed with an illness, the majority said they would look
said they have, with almost three quarters having done so in the online for information about their condition, either through
last month. Consumers from the Philippines and China are the most general websites or through patient forums. Almost half (48%)
prevalent users but even in Taiwan over 75% said they have used would compare available treatments online and over a third
the internet seeking healthcare information at some point, which would look for a mobile App to give them support.
confirms that digital channels are popularly utilised in Asia, amongst
the affluent middle class populations at least. Reassuringly only a small minority (12%) of consumers overall
reported they were looking to buy medicines online, however, in
China the number was more than double (27%).

So what healthcare information is being sought?

We questioned respondents on what information they had sought in
the past and then asked them to consider what they would be likely
to utilise if they were diagnosed with having a specific condition.

Our research showed that Asian healthcare consumers are When asked how they access the internet, 44% on average
primarily information-seekers. The survey revealed that the across all markets said they do so via their mobile phone. Around
majority (72%) of consumers across Asia are looking to find out a third (30%) of consumers had downloaded a health-related App
more about a condition on general healthcare websites. In China and 59% stated they had used the App in the last month.
we found that healthcare consumers are also looking for Healthcare consumers in China and Korea reported much higher
emotional support, as 67% reported looking at health forums use of Apps than the other Asian markets.
where they might be seeking support and advice, as well as to
gather information. Interestingly, almost all types of digital channels
are being considered by many, with even 18% of consumers
searching on Facebook for information.
Issue 4 Features from our global
Digital health in Asia market research experts

Finally, we provided consumers with a range of The survey

e-communications and asked them which of these they
would find acceptable if they received them in the future.

The majority were open to most channels of communication,

with over 70% happy to receive an SMS reminder service. In
all markets except Korea, health consumers would be open to
China Philippines Korea Singapore Malaysia Taiwan
receiving results or treatment advice from their physician via
email. We found a surprising reluctance towards receiving a
health-related DVD from their doctor perhaps because they
imagined it might be biased towards a particular form of Male 50% Children living in
treatment? Most respondents also rejected the concept of a household 50%
Female 50%
Skype call with their physician - perhaps preferring the No children in household 50%
personal interaction they get from an appointment at their
doctors place of work. This finding suggests to us that whilst
Fieldwork conducted online
digital programmes will serve to enhance patient education, 18-30 33%
between 3-17th Sept 2012.
communication and engagement, they will not be a 3150 34%
replacement for the more personal patient/doctor interaction. 50+ 33%

In conclusion
This survey, whilst offering just a brief glimpse into consumer identified distinct patient segments, each with varying degrees of
behaviour, clearly demonstrates that for those consumers in Asia engagement with their treatment. Two segments in particular, the
who have access to the internet or a smartphone, digital motivated and the assured, are more likely to participate in
channels are definitely being utilised to provide supplementary health information-seeking behaviours and these segments are
information and support about their own or their familys the easiest group to influence.
healthcare needs. Healthcare consumers are clearly open to
using more of these in the future and the importance of these We would recommend that if pharma marketers are considering
channels is predicted to expand and grow according to digital channels in their communication portfolio, their efforts
consumer demand. should be targeted at these patient groups who are actively
seeking to engage in their own healthcare. Patients who have to
However, despite these findings, we offer a note of caution to pay a significant portion of healthcare costs out of their own
pharmaceutical marketers. Not all patients are the same and not pocket (and this applies to many patients in emerging markets)
all those who can or say they will use digital channels, will have an added incentive to take active responsibility for their own
actively engage. The Research Partnerships ongoing Living With healthcare decisions. These patients are often easier to engage,
study, conducted across a range of markets amongst patients since they are looking to make informed, educated decisions to
suffering from a variety of chronic illnesses, has consistently get the best outcomes from their investment.

Patient / physician communication the hard facts

40-80% of medical information provided by Patients who are older are less able to recall
healthcare practitioners is forgotten immediately medical information correctly

Patients tend to focus on diagnosis-related Medical advice is perceived as being more

information and fail to register instructions important if it is expressed in specific rather
on treatment than general terms

The greater the amount of medical information Information given in written form is better
presented, the lower the proportion correctly remembered and leads to better treatment
recalled adherence
Issue 4 Features from our global
Digital health in Asia market research experts

Using digital channels to

improve patient compliance
Digital channels are
Over the last two years we have seen a dramatic increase in the definitely being utilised
use of digital technologies in health communications, brought
about by the interactive opportunities offered by Web 2.0, the
to provide supplementary
explosion in social media, as well as the shifting demographic information and support
of the online population. about patients own
In this new digital age the patient can now take responsibility for or their familys
gathering their own information, which in turn has an effect on healthcare needs
the doctor / patient relationship. The doctor is no longer just an
authority figure but can also be a facilitator and potentially a
partner. The increased engagement that the patient has with
their healthcare benefits the pharmaceutical industry both in Pei-Li Teh
communicating with their end customer and also in affecting Associate Director
behaviour changes.

In a paper given at the EphMRA Asia Conference in Beijing

in 2012 Associate Directors Paul Reed and Pei Li Teh investigated
more comprehensively the opportunities that digital channels
present in influencing patient compliance and the considerations
for conducting effective market research in this new age.

Paul and Pei Li would be delighted to give a presentation of this paper and discuss
your market research requirements at a time to suit you.
Email for information and to arrange a meeting.

Contact us Pei-Li Teh
Contact one of our Directors if you would like
further information on our mobile research services
or other custom research: Paul Reed

T: +65 6222 4646

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