This article is written by Sheji Ho, Co-founder and CEO of HD. It was originally published in Medium and reproduced with the author’s permission here.

With 2021 (finally) around the corner, we look ahead to see what the new year might bring us in the digital healthcare landscape. Most of this is based on our own data, research, and observations over the past 24 months. Disclaimer: not investment advice.

  1. Telehealth adoption will continue to decline from COVID peak in March 2020, with pure-play telehealth startups looking for additional ways to monetize their businesses. People finally realize telehealth is “all sizzle and no steak” in Southeast Asia.
  2. More and more hospitals will bypass third-party telehealth platforms to go direct-to-consumer using popular platforms like Zoom; telehealth mainly to be used as a CRM tool to regularly check in with (mostly chronic disease) patients after the initial in-person visit. This is the use case telehealth technology was originally intended to be used for.
  3. Medical tourism will come back with a vengeance along with a tourism boom following a complete global rollout of COVID vaccines and pent-up demand for global travel. 2021 will be the biggest year in history for global travel and medical tourism. (And Airbnb shares to reach all-time highs in 2021.)
  4. Hospitals continue to re-position themselves for domestic demand in order to diversify risk away from a huge dependency on medical tourism that led to revenue drops of over 50% in 2020.
  5. The cash-pay, elective and preventive healthcare market will continue to grow in the aftermath of the COVID-driven recession that has left many unemployed and without health insurance coverage or facing major salary cuts. 2020 has been a crash course in health and wellness education for Generation Z members leading to increased health consciousness and resulting growth in preventive healthcare spending.
  6. Venture capital investments into digital health will reach new all-time highs in 2021. Digital health business models will crystalize in 2021 whereas previously the big question of monetization still kept many investors on the fence.
  7. Government entities will collaborate more closely with digital health startups, realizing it’s much harder to drive innovation from within the system.
  8. Offline pharmacies, hit hard in 2020 by COVID, will lobby regulators to allow for online sales and delivery of prescription medications, following similar advancements made in China and India over the past few years. Headlines like Amazon Pharmacy and JD Health’s blockbuster IPO will only put more urgency behind their cause.
  9. More and more corporations and SMEs will opt to provide a budget to employees to have the latter purchase their own health insurance or pay out of pocket. With COVID hardships still in the back of their minds, SMEs that previously were not able to afford private health insurance for their staff may now opt for a smaller cash contribution towards their staff’s out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.
  10. Hospitals and clinics, realizing the need to digitize their businesses, will increasingly work with third-party digital health platforms in order to compensate for internal politics, lack of a digital “DNA”, and staff lacking technical skills that hamper them from bringing their business online by themselves. This is similar to the path followed by retailers and brands during the last few years of ecommerce boom in Southeast Asia.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].