Regional collaboration critical as ASEAN invests in digital transformation to future-proof healthcare systems: 2nd ASEAN Digital Public Health Conference

  • 3 key themes that emerged across 1.5 days of keynote addresses and panel discussions were the pressing need for greater collaboration across the region and sectors; greater investment in research; and the perennial need for funding
  • Conference gathered over 60 prominent moderators and speakers, including ASEAN Ministers, policymakers, top public health officials, multi-disciplinary experts and industry leaders from healthcare and finance, and more than 500 participants internationally
  • It brought together multiple stakeholders to chart the way forward for digital public health as the region recovers from COVID-19

Bandar Seri Begawan, 8 December 2022 – ASEAN leaders are calling for greater collaboration across the region and sectors, including in areas such as digitalization, data sharing, research and learning. This clarion call comes as ASEAN nations work to digitally transform their healthcare systems and make them more integrated and resilient. The objective is to future-proof the healthcare systems to provide more optimized health outcomes, and better deal with future disease outbreaks and healthcare pressures from aging populations.

Beyond collaboration, the need for greater investments in research, and how to maximize the return on healthcare investments given the perennial need for funding, were among the key themes that resonated across 1.5 days of keynote addresses and panel discussions at the 2nd ASEAN Digital Public Health Conference, which took place in Brunei Darussalam and online recently.

Hosted by the Ministry of Finance and Economy and the Ministry of Health in Brunei, the conference, themed “Health and Healthcare Beyond COVID-19: Building Forward Together”, was organized by EVYD Technology in partnership with the Brunei Investment Agency and the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, and supported by Temasek Foundation.

Following the success of the inaugural conference last year, this year’s event was attended by over 500 participants and featured more than 60 prominent speakers from the health and finance sectors, including ASEAN Ministers, government authorities, multidisciplinary experts, and leaders from industry, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Among the highlights of the conference was a Fireside Chat with H.E. Dato Dr Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah, Minister at The Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II, Brunei, moderated by Prof Annie Koh, Professor Emeritus of Finance (Practice), Singapore Management University. Dato Amin shared Brunei’s long-term perspective toward healthcare spend on digital transformation and how the nation is optimizing investments through technological innovation.

This includes expanding its BruHealth COVID-19 pandemic management mobile app into a national and individual health management app. The app now enables every Brunei resident to keep track of his/her medical appointments, view personal health records including laboratory, X-ray and radiology results, and schedule video consultations with doctors, dietitians or for other clinical services. It also encourages them to improve their health with prompts to lead a more active lifestyle and informative tips, including on nutrition. EVYD Technology is partnering the Ministry of Health, Brunei on the development and on-going evolution of the app.

Following this was a keynote address delivered by H.E. Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Health, Singapore, on Healthier SG – Insights and Experience. He spoke about how the country successfully launched Healthier SG, a national initiative to make the Singapore healthcare system more sustainable by shifting its focus from curative to preventive treatment. Mr Ong said that digital technology is enabling individuals to take greater ownership of their health, and centralized IT systems are powering integrated and seamless healthcare.

Another keynote address was by Tan Sri Dr Subramaniam Sathasivam, Former Minister of Health, Malaysia and Co-Chair of the country’s Health White Paper Advisory Council. Tan Sri Subramaniam gave a preview of what Malaysia is trying to achieve with its upcoming Health White Paper – to remake the country’s healthcare system to be more sustainable and resilient, and attempt to ringfence healthcare reform from political changes for long-term stability and development.

Dr Ang Swee Hui, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional), Ministry of Health (MOH), Brunei, gave a keynote address on Brunei Darussalam’s Digital Healthcare Transformation. He covered Brunei’s holistic approach to healthcare leveraging technological innovation – including integrating the population’s medical health records and leveraging EVYD Technology’s EVYDENCE platform to integrate information from multiple systems, including BruHealth. This enables the provision of more individualized care to all residents, including advice on how to live and eat more healthily. The Ministry of Health, Brunei together with EVYD Technology, is continually developing and assessing the on-going evolution of the app.

Professor John CW Lim, Executive Director, Centre of Regulatory Excellence at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, also delivered a keynote address on Challenges, Opportunities and the Way Forward for Digital Health Regulation in ASEAN. He highlighted that promoting greater regional collaboration to co-create, coordinate and clarify digital health regulation when the technologies, applications and guidelines are still at a nascent stage, will be a key enabler of digital health.

The conference also featured an ASEAN Health Ministerial panel on Building a Resilient ASEAN, featuring H.E. Dato Dr Hj Md Isham bin Jaafar, Minister of Health, BruneiH.E. Dr Lo Veasnakiry, Vice-Minister of Health, CambodiaH.E. Dr Prastuti Soewondo, Special Adviser to the Minister of Health, IndonesiaH.E. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, Minister of Health, LaosH.E. Dr Aye Tun, Deputy Minister of Health, MyanmarH.E. Dr Lilibeth C. David, Under-Secretary of Health for Health Policy and Infrastructure Development, Philippines; and H.E. Sopon Mekthon, Vice Minister for Public Health, Thailand, and moderated by Professor David Koh of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore. The speakers shared key learnings surrounding the vital role of digital technologies in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted the need for regional and global cooperation and information-sharing to counter public health emergencies, as well as the need for early warning systems that offer surveillance of healthcare threats, such as infectious diseases.

“COVID-19 has resulted in a sea change in healthcare delivery, with digital technologies emerging as a powerful tool to tackle the twin challenges of effectively managing future outbreaks and optimizing health outcomes for aging populations. As healthcare is one of the most important yet complex sectors, effective strategies require alignment and collaboration of multiple stakeholders. Against this backdrop, the conference acts as a platform to bring these stakeholders together to facilitate greater regional collaboration and make a difference in the health of the peoples of South East Asia. We are indebted to all our moderators and speakers, who willingly gave of their time and vaunted expertise to contribute to driving these important regional healthcare discussions,” said Mr Chua Ming Jie, Chief Executive Officer of EVYD Technology.

“Over the last three years, many countries in ASEAN have strengthened their digital health architectures and used new electronic tools that go beyond just pandemic management to also providing cutting-edge ways of practising precision public health. I hope that our discussions at this conference will lead us to develop this smarter, more agile, more data-driven vision of public health in the ASEAN region that can serve as a starting point for renewed cooperation and concrete work on digital public health towards regional health resilience. As a region, we must continue to prioritize the right investments in our health systems, and take the appropriate tough decisions to ensure that we keep our people healthy and well,” shared H.E. Dato Dr Hj Md Isham bin Jaafar, Minister of Health, Brunei.

The first ASEAN Digital Public Health Conference was held on 6 and 7 October 2021 in Brunei and Singapore. Carrying the theme “Collaborate for a Happier and Healthier World Post Pandemic”, speakers from around the world including ministers and top government officials, leading medical professionals, industry leaders, researchers and scientists led and participated in panel discussions, and attracted over 500 professionals to join different sessions physically and virtually. The topics covered included how to manage COVID-19 and build a resilient economy post-pandemic, as well as how to drive public health forward through investment and collaboration.

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