What does Asia’s aging population spell for business and IT?

02/05/20184 Minute Read

The Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest aging population globally. In fact, the region currently houses more than 50 percent of the world’s people who are 60 years old or more. According to the United Nations, that number will reach over 2 billion globally by 2050, two-thirds of which—around 1.3 billion—will live in Asia. On top of that, people are living longer, too, with the number of 100-year-olds and older expected to increase 1,000 percent by 2050.

An aging population, if not properly addressed through innovative solutions, can have a serious impact on certain areas, such as the labour market, government spending, and of course—the wider economy. From a business perspective, though, an aging population sets the stage for the tech industry to earn big.

Are there benefits to an aging population?

The opportunity lies, most of all, in the health care sector, which is looking particularly lucrative. The Asia-Pacific Risk Centre (APRC) notes that by 2030, health care costs—thanks to the unprecedented growth of the aging population in Asia—will rise to a whopping US$20 trillion (S$26.16 trillion) in the region.

CFO Innovation also points out the money spent on and by this demographic is growing fast in Asia due to two factors: new technologies and an increased existence of—and focus on—chronic conditions, which will drive health care costs up. Additionally, the private sector will likely experience growth, as health care costs will contribute to stretched government budgets, requiring the likes of startups to step in and innovate.

What areas will have the most to gain?

Which countries will rise to the top of the list when it comes to health care spending? The APRC notes that while Japan will be the first “ultra-aged” country by 2030, with citizens older than 65 making up 28 percent of its population, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan follow closely behind at 21 percent.

To this point, Loke Wai Chiong, an executive director at Deloitte Risk Advisory, says, “Aging populations in Southeast Asia are driving up the demand for health care. Everything from diagnosis and drugs to devices will have to evolve together with the shift in demographics. There is an ever-pressing need for a robust health care system to cope with the changing needs of patients.” Chiong calls for health care systems across Asia to “innovate” and ultimately bring down skyrocketing health care costs.

Focus in on China—an example worth studying

If you zero in on China as a case study, you can see exactly how Asia can turn its aging population into business opportunities. Although China’s population of people over 65 will reach 370 million by 2050, technology is adapting quickly to keep pace. For example, scientists in China have been able to 3D-print blood vessels out of living cells—a stepping stone toward printing entire organs that can help elderly patients.

Vast updates to China’s health care system are also underway, which include new technologies allowing for virtual exams, remote patient checkups, and online record keeping. Called mHealth, this new technology leverages the proliferation of mobile devices to create health care platforms, such as Alibaba’s Ali Health or the Ningbo Cloud Hospital—a web-based health care centre. Adoption is high in China, as the most populous city in the world is accounting for 37 percent of Asia’s mHealth market. Using mHealth platforms, the elderly can do everything from their homes—from consulting with their doctors via video to having prescriptions delivered to them.

As seen in China, the demand for technological advances in the health care sector will likely grow, and businesses need to prepare their IT infrastructure in lieu of this fact. Ways to adapt can include doing the proper due diligence and research into the possibilities of mHealth platforms, ensuring any new solutions fit with your larger cybersecurity framework, and investing in the development of web-based solutions—whether it’s online payments or video and messaging integration.

Remember: The future generation will be mobile device savvy and will expect the ability to get their health care needs catered quickly and remotely, so any new infrastructure your business is looking to invest in should keep those needs in mind. If you start prepping your IT infrastructure now, you’ll be able to keep up with the needs of this growing demographic—and your business can stay one step ahead of competition that hasn’t factored this in yet.

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