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

An APAC survey of healthcare technology startups provides insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the industry.

The report also shows how to support SMEs to face the common challenges they face in scaling up and growing.

Medtronic-Economist Impact’s white paper, titled “Asia Pacific’s Healthcare Technologies Ecosystem: Enhancing Start-up and SME Success,” was released yesterday at the Medtronic Open Innovation Conference in Singapore.


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

More than half of the survey respondents indicated that COVID-19 enabled the progress, implementation and development of innovative ideas. Companies that managed to leverage the right talent pool, networks and financing found themselves in rapid scaling opportunities during the pandemic. However, this was not the case for the remaining 35% of respondents who said the pandemic had caused their business ventures to stagnate.

The report shows that while many healthcare startups and SMBs have excelled in adopting and innovating new technology, there are still numerous obstacles hindering the advancement of companies in this sector.

The biggest challenge for these startups and SMEs is to find the right talent with relevant skills, experience and expertise. Meanwhile, the lack of regulation on data privacy and security ranks second, cited by 80% of respondents as a major barrier.

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

Challenges with talent recruitment, data privacy and funding are not unique to the healthcare technology industry as SMEs in many markets struggle with similar challenges. However, the report suggests that the solutions should be specific 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 in relevant recruitment of talent and skills.
  • Clarity in all health technology assessment processes.
  • Networking support and access to health system stakeholders.
  • Help navigate regulatory roadblocks in countries and regions.
  • Government support for startups.
  • Financing and financing support.
  • Partnerships and cooperation with the public and private sectors.


Startups and SMEs in APAC are at the forefront of digitization and technological advancements in the healthcare and medical sector. These companies have enormous potential to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare in the region.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to solving their challenges, and each company will need unique forms of support, the report said. It further suggested that solutions are not only business-specific, but must also “adapt to the fragmentation and security regulations of healthcare systems, and take into account the array of complex cross-domain knowledge that new talent in the industry needs to be aware of”.