Elective procedures and a broader array of treatments are returning to pre-pandemic levels as COVID-19 wanes. Stable finances are also helping hospitals transition to a post-pandemic era. APAC hospital executives facing a backlog of elective demand will be looking to pharma to offer innovative drugs to improve patient outcomes and to partner with them on solutions. 

Pharma industry leaders who want to seize opportunities in the APAC market should make sure they can link drugs to outcomes and patient satisfaction. They should also assess their supply-chain resilience and their capacity to meet renewed demand. 

Hospital executives’ outlook is reported in detail in L.E.K. Consulting’s third annual survey and analysis of APAC hospital priorities. More than 400 hospital executives – of both public and private hospitals – in China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Australia, South Korea and Singapore. Expectations for pharma is the major focus of the survey.

Survey results indicated that APAC hospitals demonstrate a paced recovery, two years after pandemic disruption set in. Elective procedure volumes are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels – leaders expect these volumes will continue to grow. Additionally, hospital finances seem healthy with 80%-90% of hospital executives reporting they have achieved a balanced budget or positive EBITDA margin. 

Not surprisingly, executives’ focus is shifting from COVID-19 management to improving clinical outcomes and achieving operational efficiency – their highest spending priority over the next three years will be on innovative drugs and therapies. 

This priority opens the door to partnership. When asked the top focus areas where hospitals would like pharma to help achieve their goals, executives now cite “offer innovative drugs/biologics to drive improved patient outcomes” (59%). That figure represents a significant shift in focus from the 2021 survey, when executives’ primary preference was “offer lower cost products.” However, low cost was the third-ranking priority this year, cited by 53% of executives. Ranking second, were solutions to reduce medical errors – such as support devices that reduce errors or simplify titration. Drugs that allow administration in outpatient settings were the least-cited priority at 49% - reflecting hospitals’ renewed focus on inpatient services.

How to take advantage of the partnership opportunity? Getting a drug onto the hospital formulary is the decisive first step. When asked for their top selection criteria, 51% of executives cited the drug’s inclusion in national or international treatment guidelines. 41% said their top priority was whether the drug is purchased by a Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) or centralized procurement department. Those factors outweigh others including sourcing from a preferred supplier, presence in the reimbursement list, local manufacturing, price, or cutting-edge treatment. 

The survey also shows that the hospitals’ heads of medical or nursing remain the gatekeepers for purchasing. They were cited by 44% of executives as the key decision-makers, far outstripping any other function – these will be key contacts for expanded sales. The only exception was Japan, where 76% cited clinical department heads as they key purchasing decision-maker.

Digital solutions are a high priority for hospitals, and pharma leaders should explore digital solutions that add value – for example, those that provide dose monitoring or address compliance. Digital supplier engagement appears to be well accepted across APAC – pharmas that can manage relationships via digital platforms will have an advantage.

To seize opportunities in APAC, pharma leaders’ first priority is to ensure supply-chain resilience and capacity to meet demand. Beyond that, success will depend on the ability to achieve true partnership through a solutions-focus lens – this includes ability to provide outcomes data, and to support improved standard of care and patient satisfaction, while meeting the needs of regional markets.

For pharmas that can rise to the challenge, the outlook is bright in APAC in 2022 and beyond. 

For more details, please download L.E.K. Consulting’s analysis of strategic priorities of healthcare providers – implications for pharma.


Arnaud Bauer, Head of Southeast Asia

Calvin Wijaya, Principal

Mei Young, Senior Manager

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