Thailand launches telemedicine programme in rural areas

Last week, Thailand began development of its telemedicine programme at 32 hospitals located in rural areas in eight provinces, according to an article by the Bangkok post. The eight provinces are Chiang Rai, Kamphaeng Phet, Kanchanaburi, Kalasin, Phetchabun, Surin, Songkhla and Surat Thani.

The telemedicine programme is a joint effort of the Public Health Ministry and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). The integration and promotion of the use of appropriate digital technologies for telemedicine is also part of the Thailand 4.0 plan to increase access to healthcare with digital technologies, as stated in the eHealth Strategy by the Ministry of Public Health (2017-2026).

A budget of 180 million baht has been allocated to purchase and install digital equipment for telemedicine in the initial phase, according to NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith. The budget is part of the NBTC’s five-year funding for the operation of hospitals. Mr Takorn added that telemedicine services will be offered by the initial 32 hospitals by the fourth quarter of 2019.

The programme will also focus on four main illnesses: high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and skin disease as they account for more than 70% of hospital cases. The initial 32 hospitals involved in the telemedicine programme consist of 15 subdistrict health-promoting hospitals, five community hospitals, eight provincial hospitals and four primary health clusters.

Elsewhere in Thailand, the Khon Kaen Smart Health project, which was a winner under the Public Health and Social Services category for the 2018 IDC Smart City Asia Pacific Awards (SCAPA), saw a collaboration between local hospitals, businesses and academia with support from government agencies to provide better health services, especially for elderly residents with chronic conditions.

Earlier this month, Samitivej Hospital Group, a private hospital brand in Thailand with a network of eight hospitals and owned by Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS), launched a one-stop Virtual Hospital app, which provides services such as teleconsultation and medicine delivery. The services of the Samitivej Virtual Hospital do not require appointments to be made in advance.

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