State urged to back smart hospital drive
The government should support the smart hospital scheme backed by 5G infrastructure as it could help ease people's expenses and save the state budget, according to the former chief of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).
Takorn Tantasith, former secretary-general of the NBTC, said the country is earmarking around 100 billion baht a year for public healthcare expenses and the amount keeps increasing as Thailand became a fully aged society in 2021.
People are now also troubled by economic woes and the smart hospital drive is expected to help reduce public spending on healthcare services by 38 billion baht per year, he said.
The smart hospital concept could be supported by the 5G network, an infrastructure which Thailand is at the forefront of in Asean.
The move could also reduce the social gap in terms of access to healthcare services and improve the efficiency of treatments, Mr Takorn said.
According to a report by the central bank, Thailand will be the first developing country to become a hyper-aged society by 2035, with 20% of the population above the age of 65.
The country's healthcare expense for the elderly is expected to rise from 0.6% of GDP in 2010 to 1.1% in 2022.
The government should create what is known as a "One smart hospital, one region" scheme, he said.
One province in each region should be picked for the pilot project.
The chosen province must see the integration of patients' treatment data, which could then be shared with all hospitals in the province.
The patients use ID cards to disclose their treatment records at any hospitals based in the province, which could reduce the process of record checking.
The 5G network could support the management of patients' data and telemedicine, he said.
"People could benefit from the smart hospitals and telemedicine services, especially the holders of 30-baht universal healthcare cards," said Mr Takorn.
In 2020, the NBTC joined forces with Siriraj Hospital and global tech powerhouse Huawei to support 5G-powered self-driving vehicles to support the delivery of medical supplies.
The technology can replace manpower in logistics services as it can operate in complex environments within Siriraj Hospital.
"Thailand has an advantage of 5G power through the successful 5G spectrum auction," said Mr Takorn.
"The government should complement these competitive advantages and promote the integration of 5G tech in the smart hospital scheme to reduce digital divide in the country."