Under its Thailand 4.0 vision, Thailand plans to leverage on its reputation and excellence in medical services and medical devices and strengthen its position as the regional medical hub. To promote medical robotics, Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) has offered a wide range of investment promotion incentives.
Thai Public Sector support the field of medical robotics
The Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Education have jointly set up a committee with a key responsibility to promote medical and health related innovations. Many public organizations have been established to promote research and development as well as investment into human resources training. Apart from the Board of Investment, many public and private organizations have been working closely together to drive medical innovation.
Thailand is making good progress in the development and use of robotics in the field of medicine and promoting investment in robotics technology. Medical robots have been used and promoted in Thailand in many areas, including surgery, diagnosis, rehabilitation and services.
Innovations in Thai medical robotics
In surgery, robotics and innovations are gaining ground, especially in complicated surgery. Back in 2017, Ramathibodi Hospital, a leading government hospital in Bangkok and a reputable medical school, successfully performed the first robot-assisted brain surgery in Asia. Today, robot-assisted surgery has been adopted in many hospitals for different operations like spine, heart, eyes, intestinal, and gynaecologic surgery.
For rehabilitation and therapy, robots have played more important roles in assisting patients with lost limb movements and in therapy. SensibleTAB and SensibleSTEP, for example, was developed by a local company to help patients with arm and leg injury perform practiced movements aided by the robots. SensibleSTEP, a robot for rehabilitative gait training, is the winner of i-MEDBOT Innovation Contest held by Thailand Center of Excellence for Life Sciences (TCELS).
With local production, the cost of such robot development is relatively low compared to the imported ones. This means more opportunity for patients to have access to robotic therapy.
High demand for existing medical robots
In terms of services, medical service robots are increasing in demand. In addition to the well-known Dinsow, elderly care robot, and BUMBEE medical dispenser robot, medical robotics have been used in more areas. ROBODOCTOR, for example, is a remote presence system being used in a number of hospitals, allowing specialist doctors in hub hospitals to assist doctors in remote hospitals in diagnosing and treating patients with complicated conditions, such as stroke. The result is faster and more efficient diagnosis and treatment.
In addition to robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing such an important role in research and development (R&D) and in assisting doctors in performing complicated surgery. With the investment and advances into medical robotics and the strong support from several government agencies, Thailand is looking towards leading the way in becoming the latest healthcare innovation hub.
Across the world, communities are fighting to restore tree cover. Biodiversity loss and efforts to mitigate climate change are driving forces for this renewed interest in forests. However, the high costs in developing economies and poor political resolve in wealthy nations continue to hinder reforestation efforts.
Fortunately, various governments are stepping up and petitioning start-ups and tech firms to use drone reforestation to radically reduce reforestation costs. These developments allow private companies to play a forward role in forest revitalisation and climate change mitigation.
New Drone Technology
Drones are unmanned aircraft wildly ranging in size and controlled by human operators on the ground. They are one of many new technologies that scientists and policymakers alike are actively using to mitigate climate change. Many of the innovative start-ups touting this technology hope to use their tech in developing nations across the world.
Thailand, for example, is one of the economic powerhouses of Southeast Asia. It is home to more than 68 million people. It is also employing drone technology to meet its emissions targets and reforest its lands. Since 1961, forest cover in Thailand has declined from 53.5% to 31.6%, with significant portions of the deforestation occurring in wildlife hotspots located within Thailand’s rainforests.
Much of the country’s deforestation has been to accommodate not only the industry but rapid population growth. In 2014, due to a renewed dedication to reforestation, the Thai government swiftly and randomly evicted thousands of people to conduct reforestation efforts. While reforestation is a necessary endeavour, the rights of many Thai were violated in the name of environmental protection.
However, recent political developments in Thailand point to a renewed interest in bridging the gap between reforestation and population growth. Through “community forestry,” thousands of communities now manage the forests around their homes in line with conservation measures.
Moreover, Thailand has established rapid reforestation campaigns through the use of drones. Sustainable, cooperative reforestation will help Thailand meet its emissions targets and grow its economy through eco-tourism, restoring the nation’s biodiversity and improving human rights for its minority communities.
Other nations are using drone tech to reforest their lands as well. For example, Madagascar which is home to over 25 million people and located off of the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, has lost more than 40% of its tree cover since 1960.
The island has a unique geographic history, separating from the main continent of Africa more than 88 million years ago. As such, many of its species are endemic to the island. Madagascar has such stark biodiversity that it is home to nearly 3% of all animal and plant species in the world, including the lemur and the baobab tree.
Deforestation causes immense harm to the Malagasy people as well. It disrupts local rainfall patterns, destroys water tables and expedites the loss of topsoil. These factors can cause poor agricultural yields, leading to food and water insecurity and ultimately further deforestation.
The government of Madagascar has recognised the issue and is engaged in a reforestation campaign to plant four million hectares of trees across the island, in part using drone technology.
Forest decline is a complex issue. Political, social and economic developments, however, can prevent massive declines in the rate of deforestation. New developments in technology, particularly the new possibility of rapid reforestation with inexpensive drone technology, offer the thrilling possibility of restoring forests across the world.
Instead of violating human rights to get there, drone reforestation can plant trees while ensuring impoverished communities receive the benefits of climate stability and water and food security.
Chulalongkorn University Health Service Center provides preventative healthcare under the concept “Chamchuri Health City”, following the university’s policy on wellbeing on the 60th anniversary of the Health Center. On 21 December 2020, the centre launched the “Digital X-Ray Room” (CUHC General Digital X-Ray 2020), which offers diagnostic radiology services for various diseases to members of the Chula Community.
The Chulalongkorn University President presided over the opening ceremony. In the opening speech, he stated that X-ray machines are the heart of diagnosis and the Digital X-ray room at the Chulalongkorn University Health Service Center will help provide efficient and self-reliant health services to Chulalongkorn students and personnel.
Chulalongkorn University Health Service Center also has a network connection to Chulalongkorn Hospital and nearby hospitals. This will make Chulalongkorn University Health Service Center a model for medical care for other agencies and will help expand services to the general public in the future.
The Director of the Chulalongkorn Health Center revealed that the Chulalongkorn University Health Service Center started as Chulalongkorn Health Unit, established 63 years ago in 1959. The centre never had an X-Ray machine and when patients required an X-ray or were in an accident, they had to be transferred to a hospital. The process was time-consuming and complicated and so plans for the Digital X-ray Room were drawn up.
The CUHC General Digital X-Ray 2020 project has the world-class Phillip Digital Diagnost C90, which is the latest model and the first to be imported into Thailand. It is certified by the Department of Medical Sciences and will be used for medical examinations, lung x-rays, and medical certificates for renewal of government tenure.
A Lecturer at the Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine and radiology expert said that the x-ray machine can take high-resolution images and help with the diagnostics of various organs, such as the lungs and abdomen, and bone and joint diseases inflicting the spine, knee joints, and skull.
The digital X-ray images will be transferred to a monitor so that radiologists can read the images and interpret them immediately in just a few seconds.
Chulalongkorn University dedicates itself to support the health and well-being of its personnel and students, aiming for a vigorous, healthy, and happy life on campus. Stepping up to this task is the Chulalongkorn University Health Service Center. Located at Chamchuri 9 Building, the centre provides comprehensive medical services, including preliminary care, 11 specialized clinics, dental care, physical therapy room, preventative care, physical recovery, as well as a 24-hr ambulance service for emergencies.
The digital x-ray room is now open to faculty members, staff, students, as well as residents in the Chula neighbourhood.
The value of x-ray machines has not gone unnoticed in Thailand. In late 2019, the Thai Customs Department had plans to install 23 X-ray machines at Thailand’s main international airport. The Customs Director-General stated that X-ray machine installation above the baggage carousels at Suvarnabhumi International Airport is aimed at improving the efficiency of security checks of luggage of inbound passengers and to prevent goods smuggling.
The machines improve the security check of luggage transported from inbound planes before the passengers can claim them. Previously, the Thai customs resorts to random check method by human staff this resulted in smuggled goods slipping through on occasion.
It was noted that the x-ray machines, customs officials can immediately see what is in the luggage and immediately prompt the passengers to pay the Customs duty before leaving the airport. The X-ray machines at Suvarnabhumi International Airport help with tax collection as well as prevent the smuggling of sensitive goods into the country, such as agricultural products, palm oil, fuel oil and drugs.
Breast cancer is a type of cancer developed in breast tissue. A formation of a lump in a breast and red patches on the skin are some of the common symptoms of breast cancer. Obesity, lack of physical exercise, overexposure to radiation and drinking alcohol are some of the risk factors for developing breast cancer.
According to WHO, it is the second most common type of cancer in women. Every year 200,000 new cases are diagnosed worldwide and this number is continuously increasing. Prevalence of breast cancer is more common in developed countries compare with developing countries.
Thus, the aid in the effort to provide better diagnostics and treatment, the Innovation and ICT Minister of Western Australia recently announced that the Government will invest $150,000 in funding from the New Industries Fund into a WA-based medical device start-up, aimed at also enhancing capability and creating local jobs at their Nedlands-based R&D facility.
The funding which will further support the company’s ability to run clinical studies in Western Australia, and provide early access to the clinical benefits of its cutting-edge technology to Western Australian patients.
Founded in 2016, the start-up develops medical imaging technology that helps tackle the challenge of incomplete tumour removal during breast cancer surgery, alleviating the significant physical, psychological and economic burdens associated with repeat operations.
The technology behind the company was developed by a team of bioengineers, cancer surgeons and pathologists from The University of Western Australia, the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and the Western Australian Department of Health.
The $16.7 million New Industries Fund was established to support and accelerate new and emerging businesses to diversify the Western Australian economy and create new WA jobs.
The Innovation and ICT Minister stated that the Government is committed to supporting the development and manufacture of cutting-edge medical technology, like that being developed by the company, in WA. Any technology that reduces the need for repeat surgeries is a significant health and cost benefits to the patient and alleviates demand on our hospitals.
“The fact that we have this sort of technology being invented by WA researchers and universities is a testament to the levels of expertise and innovation in our State,” he concluded.
According to recent research, the global breast cancer diagnostic and drug market should reach $28.2 billion by 2024 from $20.9 billion in 2019 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2% for the forecast period of 2019 to 2024.
An increasing number of females suffering from breast cancer is the major factor for the growth of the market. Besides this, the adoption of unhealthy lifestyles, the growing female geriatric population, exposure to harmful radiation and increasing governmental initiatives also contributed to the growth of the market.
As no absolute treatment is available, there is scope for developing the market across the world. On the other hand, the high cost of the treatment, adverse effects associated with the therapy and long approval time for the drugs are responsible for restraining the growth of the market.
In line with its commitment to accelerate the adoption of digital technology, Indonesia’s Ministry of Youth and Sports said it is set to implement an innovative programme that is expected to encourage the public to embrace healthy living.
The Ministry in a statement said that it is adopting the Fitness Measurement System earlier introduced by the Ministry of Health as it continues to synergise with other government institutions to encourage citizens to live fit through exercise.
The application, which can be readily accessed and downloaded from the Playstore, was already tried by the Ministry’s employees who seized the opportunity to do practice exercises. Through the application, employees entered their details, as well as some information on their current state of health.
One of the sample exercises that they tried was running for an initial 1.6 kilometres. Through the app, the employees were able to track their performance and know their fitness levels after the activity. The application also revealed pertinent information like the average time to complete one round of running activity, which is at around 12 minutes.
Participants during the practice run include the Deputy Secretary for Sports Culture of the Indonesian Ministry of Youth and Sports who completed the activity in 15 minutes. The Assistant Deputy for Recreational Sports Management of the Ministry of Youth and Sports also had the chance to test the effectiveness of the fitness app and clocked in good results. Both officials encouraged the public to download and try the new application.
Tracking health and fitness during the new normal
Raden Isnanta, the Deputy for Sports Culture of the Indonesian Ministry of Youth and Sports, expressed appreciation for the developers of the fitness app. He said that the programme is set to become an integral part of urging a bigger chunk of the public community to put their health on top of their priorities amidst the current COVID-19 health crisis.
The Deputy mentioned that there must be more collaboration with health agencies across the country to be able to put up new technologies for health and wellness. He also said that: “this is what we’ve been waiting for. With this application, we invite people in the country to exercise. We must strengthen the synergy. We hope people can continue to exercise and maintain their fitness. Now there is an information system, so let’s exercise. Let us strengthen synergy by taking good actions and steps so that the community can continue to move.”
For their part, officials at the Directorate of Occupational Health and Sports of the Ministry of Health said that the application offers a reliable examination and clear digital record of an individual’s overall physical condition. The advantage of using the app is that this examination can be done within a short period.
They added that through the mobile app, people can be persuaded to exercise anywhere and at any time they prefer. Although the health application has been around for quite some time, it still offers good measures of a person’s fitness levels. They also mentioned that: “on average, the community’s fitness level is good and sufficient. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Youth and Sports are both urging the public to maintain their physical fitness. Let us exercise while still paying attention to health protocols.”
The Indonesian government has been paving the way to amplify the role of digital technology in providing ease and convenience to the public and in boosting operations. As earlier reported by OpenGov Asia, the Ministry of Industry announced that it is supporting the Police 4.0 programme set to be adopted by the Indonesian National Police. This is a system that can provide a positive impact on certain industries, particularly those which manufacture hardware and software programmes used for artificial intelligence systems.
Local government units (LGUs) in the Philippines are using quick response (QR) codes issued to residents to enhance and provide seamless COVID-19 contact tracing measures and are integrating these codes with systems developed by other city governments.
Months after implementing its PasigPass QR code system, the local government of Pasig City announced in a media release that it has inked an Interconnectivity Agreement with the LGU of Antipolo City, which would allow Pasig residents to use their QR Codes in its partner city.
Following the deal, the Pasig government noted that city residents will be able to use their PasigPass codes starting 25 January when they visit and transact with public establishments in the City of Antipolo in Rizal.
The cities of Valenzuela and Pasig were first to enter into an interconnectivity agreement to integrate their respective QR Code systems, a deal they signed back in December. According to an earlier statement, the city governments of Antipolo and Valenzuela have partnered to provide more comprehensive coverage of digital contact tracing across their localities in an attempt to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and establish stricter implementations of health protocols. The data-sharing agreement provides that the Valenzuela contact tracing (ValTrace) application and the Bantay Covid-19 contact tracing solution of Antipolo shall be integrated to allow seamless contact tracing.
In addition to its use in contact tracing processes, government officials said that the QR code system would also help lessen physical transactions in public establishments in the community, as well as discourage the manual filing out of health declaration forms and other public documents.
Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian stressed that the use of QR codes in digital contract tracing services has been proven to be an effective response to healthcare initiatives rolled out by the government in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The same interconnectivity deal was inked this month, this time between Valenzuela and Antipolo City. The signing of this deal means that any resident from the three cities may use his or her QR Code when travelling to any of the other localities, thereby allowing for a more convenient method of contact tracing.
The Valenzuela City Mayor expressed his appreciation over the interconnectivity deals. He added that: “what’s good about this, is that, our contact tracing efforts were made easier, it’s expanding and becoming more convenient that just one QR code will be accepted in the cities of Pasig, Valenzuela and Antipolo.”
He also mentioned that as they improve on their existing QR Code systems, they are hopeful that more cities in Metro Manila and other government agencies in the country will join in on their efforts to streamline digital contact tracing methods.
Data privacy and security
The Mayor earlier discussed that through the two QR Code systems of Valenzuela and Antipolo, the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Units of the two cities can send notification and alerts if any of their residents are suspected of having had possible contact with COVID-19 patients. He was also quick to assure the public that these systems have sufficient safeguards that would preserve the privacy and confidentiality of data shared. These safeguards are provided for under the data-sharing agreement and adhere to provisions of Republic Act No. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.
The Provincial Government of Davao Oriental has likewise adopted its own system to monitor its residents. In a previous report by OpenGov Asia, Davao Oriental authorities said that they are implementing the Davao Oriental Digital Contact Tracing System (DAVOR-DCTS). The programme shall require residents, non-residents and tourists to present their Quick Response or QR Codes for their transactions with various establishments in the area.
As COVID-19’s largest vaccination drive begins, monitoring and evaluation will be a monumental going to be a huge task. To ensure the smooth running of the vaccination programme, the government of India has created a dedicated web portal called – Co-WIN – to manage it.
The COVID -19 Vaccine Intelligence Network serves as an extension of the existing electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) module. The eVIN is an indigenously developed technology that digitises vaccine stocks and monitors the temperature of the cold chain through a smartphone application. It was launched across 12 states in 2015 to enable better vaccine logistics management at cold chain points.
An extension of the eVIN platform, Co-Win is a comprehensive cloud-based IT solution for planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of COVID-19 vaccination in India.
The Co-WIN system is an end to end solution that has utilities for the entire public health system from national up to the vaccinator level. The system allows for the creation of users (admins, supervisors, vaccinators), registration of beneficiaries (bulk upload and individual registration), facilities/planning unit and session sites followed by planning and scheduling sessions and implementation of the vaccination process. As of now, it has no self-registration option.
As part of its quality control measures for the vaccination drive, the government of India is using the ‘Rapid Assessment System’ platform developed by Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY) to obtain feedback from those who get vaccinated. This initiative aims to improve the vaccination experience for citizens while ensuring that all norms are being followed during the process at all vaccination centres.
This system will help the government to make the vaccination process more effective and also more citizen-friendly. RAS platform has already sent out around 6.2 lakh SMSes to all those who have been vaccinated in a short span of 4 days.
Registered mobile numbers and names of those vaccinated on a day are sent to the RAS system from the Co-WIN platform at midnight. The RAS system prepares a unique URL for feedback questions and sends personalised SMSs to all beneficiary of that day. The SMS contains the name of the person, dose (first/ second), and a unique URL. The sender ID used for SMS is “GOVRAS”.
Under the overarching vision of Digital India, the government of India aims to make seamlessly integrated services across all government departments accessible to citizens. This system has multiple channels for receiving feedback and is backed by analytics. These analytics will help integrated departments for continuous system improvement and better governance.
The National e-Governance Division, Ministry of Electronics & IT, developed Rapid Assessment System (RAS) for online instant feedback for e-services delivered by the Government of India and State Governments. The citizen services cover both online as well as offline (through counters) offerings of the government.
The platform is designed to be
- a mechanism for continuous measurement of Quality of Service (QoS)
- a generic feedback system available to be used by all Government Departments
- an integrated electronic system for taking feedback from citizens
RAS provides an online mechanism for getting feedback from citizens on e-services provided by governments across the country. It also analyses the feedbacks and generates actionable insights, which in turn, helps in improving the users/ citizens’ experience in availing public services.
The main objective of RAS is to continuously assess the quality of eServices, through feedback, under each e-Governance project and realign processes to achieve targeted benefits. RAS interface prompts the citizens to provide feedback about the quality of service immediately after the citizen avails an e-Service of the Government. The analytic features of RAS help integrated departments in system improvement and better delivery of services.
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay (IIT-Bombay) have created an AI model to diagnose two species of malaria parasites by studying the changing trends of proteins in human blood. The project has been funded by the Department of Biotechnology.
According to a news report, the researchers recently developed proteomics technologies and made an artificial intelligence (AI)-based model in collaboration with three different hospitals across India. The model differentiates between two malaria parasites – P falciparum and P vivax – for better malaria diagnosis.
The researchers, from the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, collected blood samples for strains of P falciparum, P vivax, and dengue from across the country. Including the Medical College Hospital in Kolkata, Sardar Patel Medical College in Bikaner, and Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital in Mumbai, along with blood samples of healthy people. Then, the team created a dataset to train the AI model.
The dataset was analysed, and the researchers studied the protein levels from blood plasma against the severity of malaria to create quantifiable data. The majority of malaria cases in India come from the malaria-vulnerable population, including workers at construction sites in malaria-endemic regions. These are regions without a proper drainage system, leaving standing water for days to facilitate mosquito breeding.
Other parts of the malaria-vulnerable population include people without awareness of the harmful effects of the standing water in their localities during the malaria season. The main issues at the time of the disease are quick diagnostic aids, which describe the causative agent of the disease, a researcher from the study explained.
Currently, the team is focused on creating a prototype of a diagnostic kit so that the technology is available for the mass-detection of the disease. The kit can be used to compile these panels of proteins for diagnostics and prognostic purposes. Once this prototype is ready, the team will compare the kit with the currently used RDT kits. The study involves a panel of proteins, which will help in the reduction of false-positive and false-negative results.
Since 2000, India cut malaria cases by more than half and the number of malaria deaths by more than two-thirds. Ending malaria remains a top government priority. In 2016, India introduced its first National Framework for Malaria Elimination (2016-2030). In 2019, the government increased funding by more than 25% for the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.
At present, malaria diagnosis is undertaken by manually studying the blood samples for the parasites which still has difficulty in determining the progress of the disease. In the case of malaria, P falciparum, P vivax and other species are not differentiable through RDTs and ideally need an expert eye along with intensive work of looking at 100 fields of blood smear using microscopy, the gold standard for malaria diagnosis, the researcher noted.
During malaria season, the number of cases is high, resulting in an increased burden on clinicians for manual diagnosis. If the diagnosis, along with the timely progression prediction from non-severe malaria cases to severe, before the development of clinical manifestations is made for clinicians, then the treatment can be specific and efficient.