While economies have slowly rebounded from the adverse effects of the global pandemic, 2022 saw the introduction of yet another setback in the form of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant: Omicron. As reported by NBC News, the new variant is characterized by the manifestation of milder symptoms, ones that are comparable to a common cold. Although this news is somewhat encouraging, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also stated that Omicron is a highly transmissible strain of the coronavirus and is far more infectious than earlier strains.
As a result, Asia has witnessed mixed results as some countries suffer heavily, while others remain resilient amid the emergence of the Omicron variant. One such country that has managed a swift yet effective response to the rise of infections is Thailand. While Thailand can attribute its success to several reasons, like a generally improved healthcare system, the development of smart hospitals is potentially one of the foremost factors helping the country’s pandemic response.
Development of Smart Hospitals in Thailand
In the YCP Solidiance white paper “The Future of Smart Hospitals in Thailand,” our professionals analyze the current landscape of the Thai healthcare sector, its persisting issues, and how smart hospitals are a potential solution to the challenges discussed.
A smart hospital—defined by the white paper as “a hospital that relies on optimized and automated processes built on an ICT environment of interconnected assets, particularly based on Internet of Things (IoT), to improve existing patient care procedures and introduce new capabilities”—presents several promising advantages in areas such as patient flow, as evidenced by the following case study on the Songkhla Nakarin Hospital located in the Songkhla Province:
- Smart Queue Application & Kiosk: facilitates remote queue booking and check-in. Information is automatically updated to the cloud and processed by an AI system which predicts and communicates patient estimated waiting time.
- Mobile application: registers a patient’s history of health checks, routine medication, drug allergies, and surgical treatments from the hospital. It can also record food/calorie intake and burning through exercise.
- Flexible Health Check-Up Options: determined with the support of AI, based on patient risk prole to optimize time spent in the hospital, as well as overall cost
Similarly, other Thai smart hospitals are also being proactively developed to further combat the ongoing global pandemic. For instance, the Siriraj Hospital of Mahidol University located in Bangkok recently collaborated with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and Huawei Thailand to launch the nation’s very first 5G hospital as per an article from Healthcare IT News. By launching this pilot project, the Thai government hopes to streamline operational processes for hospital staff, while lowering overall risk and improving the efficacy of the healthcare being provided.
Healthcare Enabling Recovery
While Thailand has emphasized the improvement of its healthcare system primarily as a response to changing demographics and needs, other factors, such as revenue from medical tourism, are also driving accelerated development in this area. According to data from Kasikorn Research, Thailand generated 2.4 million medical tourism treatments in 2019; a figure which has naturally decreased due to limited mobility caused by the pandemic.
Furthermore, by being able to manage the number of domestic infections, Thailand is also aiming to revitalize its tourism sector. Through the possible implementation of a ‘Test and Go’ policy wherein foreign visitors may skip a mandatory quarantine period; Thailand hopes to increase the number of tourist arrivals after recording an all-time low of 200,000 visitors in 2021—a stark comparison to the 40 million visitors recorded in 2019.
As smart hospitals continue to emerge throughout Thailand, expect the nation’s healthcare quality to drastically develop as well. By placing smart hospitals at the center of ongoing development within the country, the Thai government will not only bolster its economic recovery from the pandemic, but more importantly, it will improve its medical capabilities on several fronts both in the long- and short-term.
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