Healthcare firms in S'pore adopt digital technologies, transform amid Covid-19 pandemic

SINGAPORE – Eu Yan Sang might be a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) healthcare firm but its approach is anything but old school.

It has put its products on online shopping channels while forging partnerships to allow teleconsultation services for patients, especially during the pandemic.

Group chief executive and executive director Aaron Boey told The Straits Times: “The Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a disruptive impact on every industry, and the health and wellness industry, including our business, has not been spared.

“While the vaccine roll-outs set the stage for a global economic recovery, the year-long pandemic still impacts consumer spending and behaviour, retail traffic, and footfall into our stores and wholesale channels, as well as our supply chain.”

The firm started its transformation in 2017 and accelerated its efforts last year.

It pivoted from physical shopping to contactless purchase and delivery. Customers can now place orders through an online store, social media channels or even over WhatsApp.

Products were also placed on online marketplaces like Pandamart and GrabMart.

Besides e-commerce, Eu Yan Sang formed a partnership with digital health firm MyDoc to enable teleconsultation.

The firm was also already able to provide home delivery of medication for existing patients through pre-pandemic arrangements.

Staff working at the herb dispensary in a Eu Yan Sang TCM clinic. PHOTO: EU YAN SANG

Mr Boey said: “It ensures the continuity of supply of much-needed health products and services for patients.”

The company has 180 retail stores and 30 TCM clinics across its core markets in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau and China.

Hyphens Pharma: Charting an online path

The pandemic caused many retailers and food and beverage players to go online after shops had to close during the circuit breaker and safe distancing measures limited crowds.

Healthcare firms also took their offerings online to reach out to more consumers amid the challenging environment.

Pharmaceutical company Hyphens Pharma International had embraced e-commerce before the pandemic but last year expanded its efforts in promoting and selling products online.

One initiative involved pushing the presence of its brands Ceradan, Ocean Health and Sterimar on e-commerce platforms such as Shopee, Lazada, Qoo10 and Amazon through sales and marketing efforts.

It also continued to use its online business-to-business platform, where it engages in wholesale transactions of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to healthcare professionals, healthcare institutions and retail pharmacies.

Hyphens Pharma International chief executive Lim See Wah said: “We seized the opportunity to deepen our digital capabilities. Apart from the group’s distribution of medical supplies and products to the medical and retail channels, we focused on e-commerce to enhance our presence in this space.”

Hyphens Pharma International chief executive Lim See Wah at the Hyphens office in Tai Seng. PHOTO: HYPHENS

The group even appointed four new distributors last year to expand its reach in Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, China and South Korea.

Mr Lim added: “Future plans include further strengthening our proprietary brands and speciality pharma product portfolios through e-commerce and digital marketing, as well as internationalisation.

“We also plan to increase our research and development investment through collaborations.”

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Roche: Building partnerships

While the pandemic was disruptive in the short term, it had also shone a light on how healthcare systems needed to be strengthened over the long term to support patients.

Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche inked partnerships here last year to continue its mission of providing more personalised and accessible healthcare.

These collaborations also allow for the use of technology in diagnoses and treatments.

Roche Pharmaceuticals Singapore general manager Ryan Harper said: “While our business was impacted due to the reduction in visits to hospitals required for treatment, our focus shifted to ensuring our patients continued to get the medicines they need.

“This included supporting our partners across the healthcare community, for example, clinical trial investigators, healthcare providers, caregivers and, of course, patients.”

For instance, it inked a deal with Oncoshot, a collaborative platform for cancer patients and oncologists.

This partnership allows Roche to leverage Oncoshot’s clinical trial matching technology to speed up access to trials that could provide more options for cancer patients.

This year, Roche also signed an agreement with the National University Health System, among others, to leverage data insights to help inform treatment decisions for cancer patients.

Mr Harper said: “The pandemic demonstrated how stakeholders can forge new paths and partnerships to find and deliver solutions for a greater, common cause.

“These learnings can be adopted to tackle other major, systemic health issues long after we have resolved the urgency around Covid-19.

“Applying advanced analytics to meaningful data at scale will help discover new treatments, inform smarter treatment decisions, and provide better care.”

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