Exploring the Healthcare Informatics Opportunity in Thailand

Pharma IQ

Public healthcare expenditure in Thailand is primed to hit $11 billion (£7 billion) by 2015 as the Ministry of Health continues to enact National Public Health Information Reform.

At the heart of the strategy is the idea that improved technology can help reduce costs and the standardisation of public healthcare data will improve delivery and ultimately bring with it a more streamlined and effective healthcare industry.

Thailand has already been held as a shining example for e-health projects in some areas – and replication of these successes is not only desired in Thailand, but in healthcare institutions across the globe.

In 2009, results from Bumrungrad International Hospital's efforts to digitise as many aspects as it can, were reported globally after the scheme enabled the hospital to double the number of patients it handles each day, boost safety and cut patients' bills.

In the words of Chang Foo, the hospital’s chief technology officer, "It’s made a significant difference", with as many as 2,500 extra patients being treated some days without the need for extra wards or administrative staff.

The e-prescription system helped remove the risks associated with illegible handwriting, while efficiencies were gained through electronic health records and doctors were able to avoid duplication of tests through accessing information immediately.

Simply by clearing out the room where the records were held, 110,000 more children could be treated annually.

Advancements in wireless technology, mobile devices and the security and safety of e-health systems since then should only serve to enhance these benefits in the future.

Cisco recently entered into a collaboration with Siriraj Piyamaharajkarun Hospital for the communications company's wireless mobility, security, voice and video to be used as as part of a blueprint for a borderless 'hospital of the future'.

Telepresence solutions are to be offered to provide primary consultation and share with other hospitals throughout Thailand and abroad, screens are to be deployed around the hospital offering self-service information and waiting times for outpatients, and medical students at the university will have access to a show and share platform to enable them to share their learnings through video.

A wireless cyber control system will be added to offer security, which will automatically monitor any unauthorised access to the network and segment user domains to separate different types of traffic and clinical data requiring the highest level of security.

Dr. Viroje Chongkolwatana, deputy dean of IT at Siriraj Piyamaharajkarun Hospital, said: "Our existing IT infrastructure is a multi-vendor environment with various isolated systems creating many issues like clinician non-productivity, administration workload and operation interruption.

"When we planned for the IT infrastructure in our new facility, we wanted to provide international standard services, so we thought of having the finest single-network platform available in the market."

Research recently conducted by Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group found 65 percent of respondents believed communications technology offers a high potential for collaboration in treating and diagnosing patients.

The same percentage saw high potential for electronically sharing or accessing diagnostic images, video or patient biometric data, while 64 per cent recognised the potential in using IT to offer clinical training and references.

By no means are these trends concentrated on Thailand, indeed across the globe more healthcare leaders are looking at the potential for technology to transform their service offering and the ways in which trends within the consumer electronics sector can be fed into the healthcare sector.

The latest healthcare Business Trends Surveyfrom Ovum identified 42 percent of hospital chief information officers (CIOs) are planning to increase IT spending this year, with 22 percent planning on doing so significantly.

Cornelia Wels-Maug, Ovum analyst and author of the report, said: "The need to trim costs as well as enable more efficient healthcare delivery is driving CIOs to explore new routes.

"Our research shows that telehealth and mobile health are receiving more attention than in previous years, a trend that will accelerate with consumers’ urge to purchase tablet PCs and smartphones."

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