Opportunity of Korea's aging population
In Korea, we are not alone in grappling with the implications of a rapidly aging society. Century life spans are becoming increasingly common and the aspiration for a continued quality of life is equally strong. We are facing a promising new chapter in our evolution where the outlook to multiple additional decades of meaningful and productive life beyond our sixties is a reality.
Recently, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) released a report stating that Korea’s progress toward an aged society is the fastest in the world. They predicted that, by 2045, the average labor age in Korea would reach 50 years, establishing Korea as having the oldest workforce in the world ahead of Japan. Furthermore, the outlook for an extended lifespan, compounded with one of the world’s lowest birth rates, sets the aging of the overall population at a pace to become a so-called super aged society like Japan by 2025. Unaddressed, this will lead to significant future challenges for individuals, families, communities and the nation. On the health front, with longevity, the probability of chronic diseases increases significantly with particular incidences of cardiovascular, cancer and neurological complications. Economically, this demographic shift leads to national insurance funding challenges mainly driven by labor shortages derived from an increased imbalance in the young-to-elderly worker dependency ratio.
Fortunately, this isn't unprecedented and Korea's neighbor is a good place to look to for lessons learned and the best practices. Japan has been facing similar demographic challenges and they have shown that, in addition to developing an infrastructure to care for elders, they have capitalized on the economic opportunity to serve the lifestyle needs of this growing segment. Japan’s elderly have become less dependent on care and many elderly people continue to lead active lives with only minor assistance. With these trends, the market opportunity in Japan is in helping seniors live the lives they want to lead, not simply catering for those with severe disabilities.
Capitalizing on this market opportunity, however, requires innovation across many sectors. One compelling example has been GE Healthcare Japan's “Silver to Gold” initiative. Its objective is to build a healthcare infrastructure specifically optimized for Japan's super-aged society. This, under the umbrella of GE’s “healthymagination” initiative, is about delivering better health for more people. Silver to Gold is specifically about focusing on the most needed areas of care for aging populations. To name a few, liver, MSK, and Alzheimer diseases and providing integrated solutions across medical imaging, information technology, life sciences and diagnostic enhancing technologies for healthcare professionals, clinics and hospitals. The market opportunities in Japan are significant and the impact across the quality of care, its economic value and access are very exciting.
In Korea, we have tailored this healthymagination strategy, under the banner of Connected Corea. Our commitment is to mobilize our resources and talents to solve the challenges presented by the accelerated aging of our Korean society. At the patient level, based on the predominant diseases experienced in Korea, our top priorities are liver, breast, Alzheimer and cardiovascular diseases.
Like Japan, aging shouldn’t be a problem but an opportunity, and we are confident that, Korea, with its talent, vision, and globally respected clinical institutions is ideally suited to lead the way nationally and globally.
In close collaboration with our Korean partners across clinical, government, insurance and technology stakeholders, our goal is to help deliver a more sustainable Korean healthcare delivery system that maintains its cost efficiency while continuing to deliver world-class quality and access.
We are in this together and we look forward to continuing to be a key partner in transforming our societies so that we can lead longer, fuller and more meaningful lives while turning the silver industry to gold.
Laurent Rotival is President & CEO of GE Healthcare Korea.