Lack of relevant talent the main hurdle for healthcare technology startups in APAC, says report

David Beckam

An APAC study on healthcare technology startups provides insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the sector.

The report also reveals how SMEs can be supported to overcome the common challenges they face in upscaling and growth.

Titled “Asia Pacific’s Healthcare Technologies Ecosystem: Enhancing Start-up and SME success,” the Medtronic-Economist Impact whitepaper was released yesterday during the Medtronic Open Innovation Conference held in Singapore.


The study saw input from 150 executives running startups and SMEs across 15 markets in the APAC region. Insights were also obtained through six qualitative interviews with industry leaders and company representatives in the healthcare technology sector.

Over half the respondents in the study indicated that COVID-19 was an enabler to the progress, implementation and development of innovative ideas. Businesses that managed to harness the right talent pool, networks and funding found themselves in rapidly-upscaling opportunities during the pandemic. However, this was not the case for the remaining 35% of respondents who said that the pandemic had led to stagnation of their business ventures.

The report shows that while many healthcare technology startups and SMEs have excelled in the adoption and innovation of new technology, there are still numerous obstacles hindering the advancement of businesses in this sector.

The main challenge faced by these startups and SMEs is sourcing the right talent with relevant skills, experience and expertise. Meanwhile, the lack of data privacy and security regulations ranks second, cited to be a significant barrier by 80% of respondents. 

Other hurdles raised by respondents include regulatory compliance issues, partnerships and collaborations, market saturation and established competitors. Many early-stage startups also face difficulty accessing sufficient funding and financing to sustainably deploy their business ideas.

Challenges with talent recruitment, data privacy and funding are not unique to the healthcare technology industry, as SMEs across numerous markets navigate similar issues. However, the report suggests that the solutions will need to be uniquely targeted to this sector. The report suggests that various forms of support and partnerships can be initiated to help these startups and SMEs identify opportunities for expansion and growth, such as:

  • Support with relevant talent and skill recruitment.
  • Clarity in all health technology assessment processes.
  • Support with networking and access to health system stakeholders.
  • Assistance in navigating regulatory roadblocks across countries and regions.
  • Government support for startups.
  • Funding and financing support.
  • Partnerships and collaboration with the public and private sector.


Startups and SMEs in APAC are positioned at the forefront of digitisation and advancement of technology in the healthcare and medical sector. These businesses hold massive potential in enhancing the quality and accessibility of healthcare services in the region. 

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to solving their challenges, and each company will require unique forms of support, the report said. It went on to suggest besides being company-specific, solutions will also “need to to adapt to the fragmentation and safety regulations of the healthcare systems, and to consider the range of complex cross-domain knowledge that new talent in the industry is required to be abreast of”.

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