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Digital health faces regulatory challenges: Pan-Chyr Yang, VP of IBMI

Source in Chinese: Economic Daily

Dr. Pan-Chyr Yang, vice president of IBMI and academician of Academia Sinica, said on 23 August that artificial intelligence and precision medicine are the most important trends in the healthcare industry in the near future, and that Taiwan should develop precision health for every age. However, the adoption of digital technology in precision medicine and smart healthcare is facing the dilemma that described ‘best game but no one played’, and it is suggested that technology companies should not try to develop “total solutions” at once, but should solve healthcare problems one step at a time.

Yang delivered his speech by invitation of CPTPP Taiwan (工商協進會), which he addressed the topic upon opportunities and challenges for Taiwan’s healthcare industry. He said that the five major trends for the biotech industry in 2023 include cell and gene therapy, synthetic biology, resilient and sustainable agriculture, xenotransplantation, and AI-enhanced precision medicine. Among them, AI and precision medicine are the most important trends in the industry in the near future.

He pointed out that the rise of retail health in Western countries, many hypermarkets can already do simple vaccination and testing, and even genetic testing can be done through retail channels. The growing popularity of medical wearable devices are Taiwan's strength.

Not only in Taiwan but globally in terms of digital health, the sector witnessed a decline in the amount of investment. The sector in 2023 is expected total investment in digital health of about 12.2 billion, which is less than half of the amount raised in 2021 and a 30 per cent drop in the number of companies by far being funded, Yang added.

Yang continued that Meta universe in healthcare is currently facing the problem of unclear business models, which collects users' personal and behavioural data, but it fails to explain or resolve privacy issues flagged around collecting, using and storing these data. In addition, there are grey areas in healthcare that have yet to be overcome by regulations, creating uncertainty for investors and developers.

The bankruptcy of Pear Therapeutics, a once-was digital health unicorn, despite its success in marketing three digital therapies and acceptance by both clinicians and patients, was the case questioned by PBMs regarding long-term benefits, whilst casting a shadow over the industry that seeks DTx reimbursement.  

Nevertheless, Yang called for collective efforts contributed by ICT, financial holding/VC and biomedical industries. He also stressed that Taiwan needs to develop health for people at every age in order to meet the objective of "health ageing without long-term care", and that it should be done with health insurance, incentives, and ‘spillover’ policies.

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