With 3 of the big medical exhibitions and fairs in ASEAN approaching in the second half of this year, Qualtech would like to provide our readers with a sneak peek of the innovative trends in medical devices, which will take center stage at the events. Having closely examined the preparations for the Medical Fair Asia 2022 in Singapore, the International Medical Exhibition and Conference (IMEC Expo 2022) in Malaysia, and the Medical Fair Thailand, the events thoroughly reflect the future and innovation of the vibrant ASEAN medical market. Fields that have, and will continue to experience a major boost and popularity in the ASEAN region are wearable technology, augmented reality for surgeon training, pre-operation planning, and actual surgeries, as well as virtual reality surgery with robotic and artificial intelligence assistance. 

1. Medical Wearable Technology:
Wearable technology such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, healthcare wristbands and similar gadgets will represent one of the main focuses of the Medical Fair Asia in Singapore at the end of August and beginning of September. In fact, the 42nd Wearable Technologies Conference will take place concurrently with Medical Fair Asia, which is specifically designated to the Asian markets. Some of the remarkable highlights that will be presented are ranging from fitness to healthcare, and include wearable devices as sleep analysis solutions, soft dry electrodes for biomonitoring, and even the evaluation of mental health via wearable sensors.

As of now, North America is still the largest market for wearable healthcare devices as based on the most recent research, such as the report compiled by “Markets and Markets Research Private Ltd.”. However, with increasing awareness of fitness and home healthcare accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ASEAN’s wearable technology market is projected to grow rapidly in the upcoming years. The global wearable healthcare devices market currently stands at around USD 16,2 billion, while it is estimated to reach USD 30.1 billion by the year 2026. That is, while its compound annual growth rate (CAGR) amounts to 13.2%.

The effects are yet already well noticeable, as particularly (remote) patient monitoring has experienced a tremendous surge in demands and the industry is responding accordingly. Hence, production and innovations are vast with regards to devices such as wearable continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), smart wearables for cardiac monitoring cardiac, novel wearable respiratory monitoring systems that check on the respiratory pattern of respiratory disease patients, temperature monitoring devices, and neonatal monitoring devices, among others.

The Bain Front Line of Healthcare Asia-Pacific Survey (2019), which compared the percentage of physicians utilizing remote patient monitoring in the year 2019 and by the year 2024 respectively, identified an expected increase of 129% for remote patient monitoring. Additional driving factors for the growth in the wearable technology market in ASEAN are also a sharp increase in the geriatric population (58 million people in the ASEAN region by the year 2025 according to the World Bank Datal), and an ascending demand and preference for quality care in non-hospital settings.


2. Augmented Reality for Surgeon Training, Pre-Operation Planning, and Patient Surgeries:
A second focus during the highly anticipated medical fairs in the ASEAN region will be Augmented Reality (AR) technologies. Augmented reality ultimately generates a mixed reality environment consisting of selected digital information, which are overlapping with real world stimuli. Hence, in turn, allowing the healthcare professional to interact with virtual information in the context of their real-world surroundings. Hence, although related, AR is distinctively different from what is known as virtual reality (VR).

With technical advancement, augmented reality surgeries in living patients have become increasingly more common, while finding applicability in a wide range of areas. This includes, among other things, procedures such as spinal fusion surgeries or the removal of cancerous tumors. Augmented reality is used via certain handheld devices (such as smartphones or tablets), head-mounted devices with see-through glasses, or projectors. An AR headset for the surgeons can; for instance, display images of the patient’s bones and other tissues based on CT scans. This consequently allows the surgeon to rely on the new advanced technology as a practical navigation system during the surgical procedure.

Besides the use of augmented reality during actual surgeries, it is even more frequently used to train surgeons on how to perform a variety of surgical procedures. The main reason is that it can  provide a safe practice environment. Additional benefits for utilizing AR in a training setting consist of complication rate reduction during actual surgeries, and an improved surgical performance by the user.

As based on the data presented in the Bain Front Line of Healthcare Asia-Pacific Survey, 68% percent of the surveyed healthcare professionals in the ASEAN region responded that they will use augmented reality for the purpose of surgeon training and pre-operation planning by the year 2024. This; in fact, constitutes an increase of 108% compared to the data from 2019. Particularly the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery may highly benefit and can draw advantage from augmented reality. That is, as it would allow the projection of digital data onto the respective patient pre-operatively and hence can improve accuracy and better results during the surgery.

3. Virtual Reality Surgery with Robotic and Artificial Intelligence Assistance:

Lastly, surgical innovation and the use of robots in the medical field has seen significant acceleration during the past years, as robotics and artificial intelligence are set to shape the future of surgery interventions. Thus, when going through the exhibitors list of the approaching ASEAN medical fairs, these trends are certainly also reflected.

While falling slightly behind the overall expected “usage rate” for the other identified top trends above within the next 2 years, the Bain Front Line Survey nonetheless found that 49% of the questioned healthcare professionals in the Asia-Pacific expect to utilize VR surgery with robotic and/or artificial intelligence assistance by the year 2024. Consequently, representing an increase of 80% to the number of physicians intending to use such technology in 2019.

Due to this increased demand and the experienced technology advancement, a large number of highly precise and effective surgical robots are in the process of entering the healthcare industry to assist in the operating room. The robots that conduct minimally invasive surgeries (MIS), such as robotic arms, are controlled by a human surgeon using virtual reality, which allows to perform complicated and extremely delicate surgeries in a faster and more precise manner. At the same time, robotic surgery generally reduces the risk of complications.
Further benefits of robotic surgeries are that they result in significantly smaller incisions, which reduces scarring. The while patients lose less blood and have a lower risk of infections during the procedures, all of which results in a quicker recovery time.
A different form of applicability is also represented by “remote telesurgery”. That is, in situations where the surgeon cannot be at the same location as the patient, conducting the surgery via the assistance of a robot and via virtual reality constitutes an ideal alternative.  

In summary, the above 3 trends for the ASEAN medical fairs highlight the innovative and vibrant future of the ASEAN medical markets. Shall our readers also be interested in entering the promising ASEAN markets with their respective products, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our
Qualtech business team for a free consultation.

Report by Bain & Company: Understanding Southeast Asia’s Emerging Middle Class

World Bank Data from 2018: Population ages 65 and above
Markets and Markets Research Private Ltd: Wearable Healthcare Devices Market
Medical Fair Asia 2022 in Singapore
International Medical Exhibition and Conference (IMEC Expo 2022) in Malaysia
Medical Fair Thailand