Digital Financial Services for Health Regional Conference – Asia 2023
Improving the health of lower middle-income populations in Asia
In 2019, ACCESS Health International (AHI) Southeast Asia, with support from the MetLife Foundation, launched the Fintech for Health program with the objective to explore opportunities at the intersection of finance, technology and healthcare that enable patients to access quality healthcare more affordably and conveniently. Over the last three years, the project worked with numerous partners in the Asia region to make health services accessible and affordable for the lower and low-middle-income population. The project has undertaken knowledge creation and exchange on the application of fintech and insurance across the health ecosystem for various stakeholders including governments, providers, insurers, reinsurers, and startups. Ultimately, the Fintech for Health program supports the tenets of universal health coverage, in its vision that all people can access, affordable and quality care without suffering financial hardship, whereby public and private sector health systems are transparent and effective.
ACCESS Health International hosted the Digital Financial Services for Health Regional Conference Asia on February 23, 2023 in New Delhi, India. The conference brought together approximately fifty healthcare experts, thought leaders, industry representatives, and government officials from across India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore in person and online. The program was designed to provide a platform for knowledge-sharing, exchange of ideas, and partnership-building on fintech for health.
The conference was inaugurated with an opening remark by Dr. Basant Garg, Addl. CEO and Mission Director, National Health Authority. He emphasized the importance of digital health and its role in advancing the goals of universal health coverage. In 2021, the national health insurance scheme of India, Ayushman Bharat, took a revolutionary step forward to digitize and integrate the health system with the launch of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM). Subsequently, NDHM launched several digital public goods such as the creation of Aadhar – India’s unique biometric identification, UPI-India’s payment network for inter-bank transfer, and CoWIN – India’s digital COVID-19 vaccination platform. He reiterated the adoption and potential to scale in India, giving digital health an incredible opportunity to transform the health system.
Ms. Sireesha Perabathina, Senior Consultant and Project Lead for the Fintech for Health program shared the journey of the Fintech for Health program, supported by MetLife Foundation. The presentation highlighted the challenges and successes of working across different countries and cultures to promote the use of digital technology in healthcare. She also emphasized on the key learning of how use of digital public goods can improve cost building of Fintech for Health solutions and collaboration with federal and province / state programs can improve uptake and popularity of Fintech for Health solutions in the region. She also talked about how ecosystem-level capacity building can help advocate for innovative products.
Shri Amitabh Kant, the G20 Sherpa for India’s Presidency this year, provided the keynote address to the conference. He highlighted the importance of India’s digital public infrastructure model and the value bringing fintech, health, and digital transformation together globally.
Mr. Arvind Gupta, Co-Founder and Head, Digital India Foundation (DIF), shared his expertise on inclusion and identity for millions through a presentation on “India’s Digital Public Goods: Story of India Stack.” He discussed various models to improve private sector engagement for digital public goods and promoted an exchange of ideas to bring the sectors together for improved penetration and learnings for inclusion. The presentation and interaction with the audience created avenues for further exploration of synergies and work collaboratively through the India Stack.
Mr. Avijit Dhar, IT Lead, National Health Authority (NHA), presented on “Affordable and accessible care through digital public goods and social insurance: Story of Ayushman Bharat.” The audience had an interactive session to discuss collaboration with the government on Unified Health Interface and ways to scale the solutions using digital public goods. The discussion also touched on data ownership and privacy concerns, encouraging the uptake of digital public goods among the stakeholders. This marked an interesting exchange between the government representatives and the private sector to further improve the adoption of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission through the private sector.
Mr. Mohd Faiz bin Mohd Nor, Lead of Global Alliances at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), highlighted the many digital growth opportunities in Malaysia. He discussed how Malaysia has been successful in using digital technology to improve healthcare access and delivery. As Malaysia continues on its digital healthcare journey, Mr. Nor shared specific the opportunities for fintech for health companies to work in Malaysia and attract private sector to improve the healthcare ecosystem in the country.
The conference also heard from Mr. Ankur Basu, Country Manager of Milvik BIMA, on how BIMA Milvik is enabling Bangladesh’s emerging middle-income segments to access primary and secondary care. His presentation was followed by an elaborate discussion on the operational nuances and feasibility of the inclusion of the digital wallet in various programs and systems to scale innovation and access to affordable care.
Ms. Beth Lopez, Founder, and CEO of Docosan, shared her experience of how thousands of people in Vietnam received telemedicine and sexual and reproductive healthcare. Her presentation emphasized the importance of using digital technology to improve healthcare access through telemedicine and bundled health kits for self-testing and self-care in rural and remote areas of Vietnam.
Ms. Hon Ling Kueh, Senior Vice President, Insurance, Merchantrade Asia, highlighted how financial inclusion and health insurance are instruments for social impact in Malaysia especially for the migrant populations working in Malaysia. These populations lack access to healthcare and are under heavy stress of out-of-pocket expenditure on health. Her presentation highlighted the importance of health coverage and affordable health solutions to achieve health outcomes.
Addressing the conference, Pallavi Tak, Vice President of Programs at CIIE.Co, spoke about how to scale social enterprises working at the intersection of health and financial inclusion. She emphasized the importance of collaboration between different stakeholders and the role of digital technology in scaling social impact. Her talk provided valuable and practical insights on how to leverage digital financial services for health to improve healthcare access and affordability.
The conference concluded with a panel discussion on paving the path for digital financial services towards inclusion and affordable health in and beyond Asia through financing instruments, scale with public health and inclusion programs, the role of technology and transformation. The panelists included Mr. Achin Biyani, Associate Director at IPE Global – PAHAL, Dr. Sultan Mahmood, Consultant at WHO – Bangladesh, Ms. Syufiza bt Yusof, Manager – Ecosystem Development at MDEC Malaysia, and Mr. Sameer Kanwar, Director of Digital Health for South Asia at PATH. The conversation paved the way for numerous startups present to look at potential partnerships and new avenues to create an impact.
The conference achieved its objective of moving from a knowledge-sharing and exchange forum to one of partnership-building and networking. Innovative ideas and lesser-known innovations were brought to the forefront through this hybrid conference. This conference commenced envisioning the scale and partnerships which could happen not just within the countries but, across geographies and changing the outlook on a niche field to an ecosystem-level partnership building across geographies and sectors. Overall, the conference was a significant step forward in advancing the goals of universal health coverage through digital financial services for health.