January 16, 2021

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Thailand leveraging smart health to be APAC’s new medical hub

Several Southeast Asian (SEA) economies are speeding up their digitisation drives on the road to pursuing the Industrial Revolution 4.0, or IR4.0. Thailand is among these economies; it is restructuring itself into a value-based, innovation-driven economy by looking towards future economic trends, one of which is developing into an Asia Pacific (APAC) medical hub by 2025.

That is one of the stated objectives as part of the country’s Thailand 4.0 initiatives, along with developing towards other top-line trends such as robotics, aviation and logistics, biofuels and biochemicals, and digital.

According to Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), advancing Thailand’s healthcare infrastructure to become an APAC medical hub within five years will require significant technological development in telehealth, smart medical applications, and robotics.

Much of telehealth and other medical tech development will, in turn, be reliant on the progress of related technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, which can be used to support data analytics and medical services.

Leveraging smart health tech and robotics at their most efficient capacities will also be dependent on the reliable availability of 5G connectivity in hospitals and medical centres, as they were earlier this year when Thailand’s two biggest telecoms rolled out 5G to support local hospitals as they coped with the influx of pandemic-related patients.

Introducing 5G networks and spurring technology infrastructure development has been in line with the NBTC’s telecommunications and business strategy of creating an intertwined ecosystem linking government agencies and private sectors, especially content providers and SMEs who all stand to benefit from leveraging on these technologies.

Harnessing medical technology towards becoming a regional medical hub is also in compliance with the NBTC’s ongoing 5G technology development plan, which has progressed since the 5G first wave frequency auction that was held in February of this year.

Also, Thai mobile operators Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Corp. are inducing 5G network rollouts throughout the country, especially along the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) to support 5G applications in vertical sectors.

The Executive Director of Telecommunications Policy and Resource Management Bureau at the NBTC reportedly stated that harnessing data analytics along with 5G and cloud computing infrastructure helps create value towards the country’s medical hub aspirations, as they support next-generational smart healthcare applications.

The NBTC is studying international guidelines for promoting 5G deployment and creating incentive policies to promote investment in digital infrastructure and services, and encourage the use of digital technologies in healthcare, she said.

The Smart Hospital initiative, with the support of efficient telecommunications infrastructure, is an aspect that helps us achieve the Thailand 4.0 policy goal.

The Executive Director added that smart healthcare and the medical hub goals will help “provide opportunities for investment and business expansion” in Thailand.

Telehealth expected to grow in 2021

According to another report, Covid-19 has greatly accelerated the use of telehealth resources. One of the major benefits of telehealth over in-person alternatives is that it reduces contact between patients, healthcare workers, and other patients.

According to recent research, telehealth a useful tool for continuous monitoring of chronic conditions and treatment. The adoption of telemedicine is likely to rise with the penetration of smart gadgets. Telemonitoring is used to monitor congestive heart failure (CHF), tele stroke for stroke condition, and tele pulmonology for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

It is also expected that by revenue, the telehealth market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 28% during the period 2019-2025. Factors such as the emergence of telehealth robots and robotic platforms as well as strategic acquisitions and collaborations are likely to contribute to the growth of the telehealth market during the forecast period.