AIS to enhance technology on mobile stroke vehicles
5G signal will be boosted in the units
Advanced Info Service (AIS), Thailand's biggest mobile operator by subscriber base, is lending support to further development of 5G-powered mobile stroke vehicles handled by Siriraj Hospital and Mahidol University's engineering faculty as ways to assist patients suffering from stroke.
The assistance vehicles -- known as mobile stroke units (MSU) -- could reduce the chance of death and disability of stroke-hit patients who are living in remote areas across the country.
The number of MSUs is projected to increase from five to eight, plus one boat in the Chao Phraya River, by the end of this year.
"Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability. Data shows that last year, there were over 13.7 million stroke victims worldwide. The critical factor for treatment of stroke is time standards for doctors to make their diagnosis and apply the correct treatment to severe symptoms," said Dr Yongchai Nilanont, president of Siriraj's stroke centre.
There are currently five MSUs which are used in remote areas, covering Somdet Pra Yuparaj Jom Beung Hospital in Ratchaburi province, Kiriratnikom Hospital in Surat Thani, Somdet Pra Yuparaj Chiang Khong Hospital in Chiang Rai, and Somdet Pra Yuparaj That Panom Hospital in Nakhon Phanom.
These 5G-powered vehicles have been upgraded with enhanced functions and equipment, as well as 5G network signal quality and coverage.
Dr Yongchai said MSUs can help the diagnosis process when patients are in the vehicles, with the result of the CT scan sent to doctors who see it on a screen.
The doctors can recommend MSU staff provide treatment for patients in a timely manner according to the severity of their conditions, he said.
Construction of the first MSU was funded by the Thaicom Foundation, with the second MSU funded by His Majesty the King.
The third and fourth were financially supported by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES), while the fifth and sixth were funded by Siriraj Hospital.
The seventh and eighth are expected to be jointly developed with interested hospitals. Each MSU costs 30-38 million baht.
Wasit Wattanasap, AIS's head of nationwide operations and the support department, said his company partnered with the team to develop equipment in the vehicle to work more efficiently, while spreading the 5G signal which supports a rapid response to emergency signals.
It boosts the signal quality to display images from cameras inside the vehicle, and even CT scans, which must be urgently sent to the Cloud for the medical team to evaluate the severity of symptoms, or apply first aid in a timely manner, he noted.
Pornchai Chanyakorn, deputy dean of the Process Quality Development Department at Mahidol University's Faculty of Engineering, pointed out the concept and design of the MSU were driven by understanding the journey of medical personnel in treating stroke. There were tests of the capabilities and safety of the vehicle, safety standards of radiation, its life-saving systems, and telemedicine seamlessly connecting communication equipment in the vehicle to the 5G network.
The mobile bandwidth speed needed for the MSU is at least 12 megabits per second while the vehicles are driven, and 30 to 40 Mbps when the MSU are parked.
Dr Visit Vamvanij, director of Siriraj Hospital, said strokes are currently a critical public health issue. Even when they are not fatal, they can cause long-term disability.
"The hospital initiated the 'Siriraj Mobile Stroke Units to Treat Acute Stroke Symptoms Pilot Programme' for which we have received continuous support from various sectors," he said.
"It is another key step to develop a network to pick up patients and develop remote treatment which lead to reduced rates of mortality or disability for acute stroke patients."