In July 2021, Chris Khang took on the position of CEO for GE Healthcare ASEAN and in January 2022 his role expanded to include Korea and ANZ. His responsibilities in Korea sees Khang reconnecting with colleagues from his nine-year tenure as CEO of GE Korea where he was instrumental in engaging and strengthening strategic partnerships with government and private sectors, and continuing to effect synergy with GE’s Aviation, Healthcare, Renewables and Power business teams.
Khang’s move to Singapore saw him mandated by the US$17bn global healthcare business to bolster sustainable growth and establish a strong organisational structure in the ASEAN countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. He arrived at a time when the lack of access to basic healthcare, the shortage of healthcare workers, and the wasted spend already challenging the region’s healthcare industry were made only more obvious amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
HMi caught up with Khang less than one year into his ASEAN role to discuss the healthcare challenges encountered around the region and how he sees GE’s digital solutions can help.
The following transcript of HMi’s interview with Chris Khang has been edited for brevity and clarity.
HMi In what way is the ASEAN market different to the Korean market?
Chris Khang The Korean market is relatively mature and developed in comparison to the emerging countries in ASEAN, where the healthcare markets are at a different stage of evolution and development.
Nonetheless, there are lot of things in common, particularly given the shared experience of all healthcare markets during the Covid-19 pandemic.
HMi What has been the impact of Covid?
Chris Khang One thing that I found very interesting is that because of Covid, many countries in ASEAN are waking up to the reality, and facing up to the challenges, of providing more efficient and inclusive healthcare.
The issues were undoubtedly there beforehand, but Covid has magnified them and the urgent need to address them.
In countries like Indonesia, for example, the government and governmental authorities, together with all the healthcare professionals and stakeholders, are taking a very proactive approach in assessing their existing healthcare infrastructure and realising there are a lot of areas that need investment.
There has been a significant level of inefficiency embedded in the healthcare system, not just in Indonesia but across the region, which was highlighted during Covid-19 not least accessibility, accessibility of people needing care in terms of geography and affordability.
The Covid experience has made clear the need for countries to build a more resilient healthcare ecosystem.
In many ways, the impact on healthcare from Covid-19 has been the same in most countries – both developed and emerging ‒ it’s just that it has highlighted by how much the healthcare ecosystems of emerging countries lag than those in developed countries. There is a sense of urgency within emerging countries that they need to catch up.
Accessibility and affordability are key, particularly for people living in remote areas, and this is where technology can help. Stakeholders clearly realise the role medical technology and AI will play in taking healthcare infrastructure and ecosystems to the next level. We’re living through a period of disruption.
HMi How are healthcare providers changing their business models or changing their practices to accommodate these changes?
Chris Khang I spoke of accessibility. Businesses are trying to deploy healthcare technology to build as many access points as possible.
They’re trying to train as many clinicians as possible and to give them the capacity to use that technology properly, no matter where they are located, so that they can provide healthcare services to the people who need them. That’s something that is changing. Pre-Covid, that kind of delivery may have been only possible mainly in metropolitan, central city areas.
The other thing that is changing is the adoption of digital technology. Businesses are being more aggressive in installing the digital element into healthcare. It’s transforming the relationship between clinicians and patients as they can communicate at a distance. Assistance, sometimes treatment, can be provided not necessarily through in person interaction, but through virtual engagement. The transformation is taking place.
HMi So, in terms of your operations, is equipment getting smaller, more mobile, more digital? Is it all those things?
Chris Khang Yes. As an example, GE recently announced Vscan Air, a portable, handheld ultrasound device, that can be deployed in remote areas and can provide high quality scanning.
So, if you have trained clinicians in those remote areas that can do the scanning and the diagnostics, perhaps interact with experts remotely, and determine and deliver the right treatment on the spot. We see this technology as a business opportunity.
Digital technology is not just confined to providing accessibility in remote areas, however, it’s about improving efficiency across the whole ecosystem: integrating clinical data across different platforms and across the patient journey to help the clinician to be more productive; providing more accurate decision-making tools and digitizing processes to reduce burnout as well.
On the enterprise side, it’s about optimising a hospital operation, making sure they can accommodate more patients in a more efficient manner. Edison, GE Healthcare’s intelligence platform, which can integrate and assimilate data from different sources, is designed to help achieve greater efficiency, improve patient outcomes, and increase access to care. We believe that GE is uniquely positioned to be play a leading role in the digital transformation of the healthcare industry.
HMi Where do you see your opportunities in ASEAN?
Chris Khang ASEAN is catching up fast. Spending on healthcare in Asia was expected to grow by 70% between 2018 and 2025. That’s a huge growth. And we believe that the impact of Covid is only going to see that growth rate increase.
In terms of the fastest growing areas, though, it will be in the emerging economies. They are keen to renovate and take their current infrastructure to the next level. They are going to adapt with leading edge technology, like digital AI, so that they can leapfrog into the new paradigm.
It is not going to be an incremental and organic evolution of the healthcare system in emerging countries.
For the more developed countries, it will take a bit longer for them to adapt as they already have a lot of fixed investment. The opportunity, in terms of percentage growth, will certainly come from emerging countries in ASEAN.