The Philippines ranks fourth among 13 Asian markets in overall health perception, with more than half of Filipinos (57%) being optimistic about their health. This is a key finding from the recent launch of “Pulse of Asia-The Health of Asia Barometer,” a report that outlines the current state of healthcare in the region, its challenges, and the role digital health technology can play to improve the wellness landscape.

The survey – involving 5,000 people across the region during the second half of 2020 – was developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by Prudential Corporation Asia, Pru Life UK’s regional headquarters. 

High rates of digital health technology adoption

Pulse of Asia report shows more than half of Filipinos are optimistic about their health
Pru Life UK Chief Legal and Government Relations Officer Atty. Emeren Vallente welcomes attendees to the virtual launch of Pulse of Asia: The Health of Asia Barometer.

In Asia, the study found that half of respondents (54%) believe that medical care is accessible and affordable. However, only less than a quarter (22%) say they can easily access exercise and fitness facilities that would help improve their personal health and wellness in the coming year.

The Asia-wide research also highlights the potential of technology to directly combat these challenges. Four in five respondents (81%) say technology has already improved their access to health services, while three in five (60%) believe it has improved its affordability.

This growing consumer appetite towards the digitization of health shows no sign of abating. Three years from now 71% of those surveyed said they will rely on technology even more heavily to improve their personal health and wellbeing.

“Health and wellness have become buzzwords as we continue to thrive and survive this pandemic. The Pulse of Asia report highlights the attitudes Asians, including Filipinos, have towards healthcare. It also gives governments and the private sector an opportunity to understand their needs and find ways to help improve their wellbeing,” says Pru Life UK SVP and Chief Customer Marketing Officer Allan Tumbaga.

Despite the general optimism, the report uncovered local challenges with the way Filipinos receive health information and access health services. 

Half of Filipino respondents (50%) agree that the amount of information available about health and wellness is overwhelming. Despite this, Filipinos cite social media (71%), health advice sites (71%), and doctors (64%) as their three most useful information sources. They also refer to the national government and public health (63%) as another source. 

For digital technologies, it may not come as a surprise that 79% of Filipinos currently use personal health technologies like smart watches, fitness trackers, and digital health platforms. Meanwhile, nearly three in 10 respondents (29%) find digital health technologies too expensive. Filipinos also topped the ASEAN region as patients who prefer in-person consultations (36%). 

The Pulse of Asia report also determined Filipinos’ attitudes towards physical and mental health which constitute a person’s wellbeing. Only 34% of Filipinos – the second highest in Asia – have taken measures in the past three months to improve their emotional wellbeing and mental health. This, after reporting that they were depressed and anxious (40%) and that they experienced elevated stress, anxiety, and depression as a result of COVID-19 (42%). 

Public-private action to improve healthcare

Pulse of Asia report shows more than half of Filipinos are optimistic about their health
Pru Life UK Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Marketing Officer Allan Tumbaga shares that more than 70% of Filipinos now use digital health and most find it inexpensive, based from the Pulse of Asia report.

To fulfill the potential of digital healthcare, the report recommends greater public-private collaboration, suggesting that governments partner with private companies to deliver digitally innovative ways to promote and manage health and wellness among citizens.

The report also highlights the opportunity for governments to improve public health information through digital channels. According to the research, social media is the most frequently cited source of personal health and wellness information. However, the survey respondents overwhelmingly agreed that the most trustworthy sources are national government and public health authorities. Governments can seize the opportunity by becoming the most reliable source of quality health information for citizens.

The report also recommends that governments look to promote connected health devices, but that these need to be underpinned by strict data governance. Data security will enable health data to be safely centralized, empowering governments to design better policies and build more targeted healthcare infrastructure.

Promoting better health and enabling access to digital technologies for Filipinos 

Pulse of Asia report shows more than half of Filipinos are optimistic about their health
Prudential Corporation Asia Chief Health Officer Andrew Wong presents the findings of the Pulse of Asia report.

For its part, Pru Life UK has made digital healthcare a reality through its Pulse app. The first-of-its-kind free-to-download mobile app provides health information so users can play an active role in managing their personal wellbeing. Pulse is Filipinos’ new partner in preventing, postponing, and protecting themselves against the onset of diseases.

Pulse, with its artificial intelligence-powered features such as Healthcheck and Symptom Checker, allows its users to proactively monitor different facets of their health and gives them an overview of their habits, risks, and possible illnesses for them to make educated health decisions. Along with its core features, the app also offers ‘Health Awareness Content’ and ‘My Communities’, through which users can browse relevant health news and reminders, as well as interact with others to talk about their own health tips and achievements. Since it was launched in the Philippines in February 2020, Pulse has been downloaded more than three million times.

“We are comforted by Filipinos’ optimism about managing their health and future health outlook despite the ongoing pandemic. To help them achieve their health and wellness goals, we are leveraging digital technologies, primarily our Pulse app, to provide them with accessible and affordable health services and information. Through Pulse, we are also helping people protect, prevent and postpone diseases, enabling them to live well for longer and get the most out of life,” says Prudential Corporation Asia Chief Health Officer Andrew Wong.

The launch of Pulse of Asia is part of Pru Life UK’s ongoing digital health dialogue Healthscape PH. The series is a timely and insightful exchange of ideas among key stakeholders from the Philippine healthcare sector. Previously, Healthscape PH discussed the potential of mobile health and telemedicine.

Pulse of Asia supports Prudential and Pru Life UK’s overarching goal of using insights-led data to understand the needs of customers and communities, in order to develop products and services to help them lead more fulfilling lives.

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