Seismic shift in public expectations raises urgency to improve healthcare services in Asia Pacific, new Sandpiper Health report finds


Healthcare is now a top priority for people living in Asia Pacific, a seismic shift since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia Pacific, finds a new report by Sandpiper Health. Based on surveys of almost 12,000 people from across Asia Pacific, the research also suggests that over a third of people in the region are dissatisfied with public and private healthcare services available to them. This presents a key challenge to healthcare leaders and policymakers in satisfying these growing priorities and developing health services that meet people’s expectations.

The Sandpiper Healthcare Tracker: Analysis of Public Attitudes in Asia Pacific explored public attitudes to healthcare in 11 territories and found that 91% of territories rank healthcare as a top three priority compared to just half of territories in 2019.

In several countries, there were sizeable changes in levels of satisfaction with health services, a good indication of whether services are meeting people’s expectations. Singapore, for example, saw the biggest jump (13%) in satisfaction for public services to 82% and has the highest satisfaction of all territories. This is likely a reflection of public support for the government’s handling of the outbreak, which has had a limited impact on health services. Conversely, Indonesia saw a drop of almost 20%, from 71% to 52% satisfaction, reflecting disruptions in health services due to rolling outbreaks with high mortality. The Philippines, which was not surveyed in 2019, had the lowest satisfaction rates overall, with only 20% of people satisfied with public healthcare services.

“Although we expected to see some movement in healthcare prioritisation, this shift is seismic. The importance of healthcare has been growing for some time in Asia Pacific due to ageing populations and growing expectations. It is important that healthcare leaders are able to respond to this paradigm shift in the region,” said Saskia Kendall, Director, Sandpiper Health.

“The sizeable shifts in public satisfaction towards both public and private healthcare services in some territories is also out of the ordinary. Some movement is to be expected in two years but 10% to 20% is unusual. Many people will have watched healthcare systems buckle under the strain of the pandemic with people being treated in the street, surgeries cancelled and people dying – this brings the need for resilient health services into sharp focus,” she added.

In nine out of 11 territories surveyed in the latest poll, people believe cancer should be the disease that their government should prioritise for funding and resources. When asked why, over half of respondents say this is due to its severity, significance, and high cost of treatment.

Responding to infectious disease outbreaks appears high in the rankings, a significant change from 2019 before COVID-19 hit. Battling infectious diseases or potentially infectious disease outbreaks were not in the top three concern areas for Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore in 2019, but are present in the top three in 2021. Thailand and the Philippines rank it as the highest priority for government, above cancer.

Robert Magyar, Director, Sandpiper Health, China, said the research delivered a clear message to all healthcare leaders whether they are working in government or healthcare companies. “With populations ageing, infectious diseases and the burden of chronic diseases will drive a need for health services to be provided differently. As public resources are by their nature limited, finding ways to improve the efficiency of health services is important. Keeping people healthier for longer and treating people in the community are more cost effective than lengthy hospital stays. Most importantly it is crucial that patient experiences and priorities are put at the centre of these changes.”