Medical service takes to the skies

Medical service takes to the skies

Former pilot at Saint Louis Hospital pioneers air ambulance service

Dr Kornprom says Thailand has potential for an air ambulance service because of regional demand.
Dr Kornprom says Thailand has potential for an air ambulance service because of regional demand.

Dr Kornprom Saengaram, medical director of Saint Louis Hospital, has started an air ambulance service to capitalise on the country's ambition to become a regional medical hub.

"Thailand has potential for an air ambulance service thanks to regional demand, as there are few providers of this service in Indochina," Dr Kornprom, a cardiothoracic surgeon, told the Bangkok Post.

He is a former pilot with Thai Airways International (THAI).

Dr Kornprom said investors decided to set up the air ambulance airline, AirAMB, which is seeking approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand to operate the service.

The airline is expected to commence operations this year.

The business is expected to require total investment of more than 200 million baht and wants to expand to offer a charter flight service, he said.

Dr Kornprom sees demand for an air ambulance service from patients in Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, offering 2-3 flights into Thailand daily.

The cases would cover emergencies or those in critical condition that need medical facilities here, as Thailand offers affordable and quality treatment, he said.

"Our airline will have doctors flying with patients who need urgent treatment," said Dr Kornprom.

He said it was his childhood dream to become a pilot, but he initially pursued a career in medicine.

After graduation as a surgeon, he trained to become a professional pilot and was recruited by THAI.

During Dr Kornprom's work with the national carrier, he performed surgery for charity cases over the past two decades.

He said being a pilot calls for advanced planning, evaluation of situations, quick decision-making and being able to handle complex problems.

These qualities are also needed for surgeons, as stress management and being able to make critical decisions in the operating room are necessities, said Dr Kornprom.

He said being a pilot includes non-technical skill training to prepare for emergency situations. Dr Kornprom said he taught courses on non-technical skills over the past 15 years.

Some of these skills include leadership through listening to others, having stable emotions, controlling one's ego, situational awareness to predict the next move, and the ability to clearly and effectively communicate with others.

He said these skills can lead to standard operating procedures, involving planning for worst-case scenarios, which can help surgeons save lives.

In terms of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) can assist in the pre-diagnosis process and result validation, which improves productivity, said Dr Kornprom.

AI assists more in terms of diagnosis than treatment, as AI still requires a machine learning curve, he said.

Doctors can use anonymous personal data to ethically train machines, said Dr Kornprom.

Automation can play a role in arranging medication, easing the work of pharmacists and minimising human error, he said.

"In Taiwan, a small hospital can handle 8,000 outpatients daily thanks to the use of automation," said Dr Kornprom.

While some people are concerned AI will take the place of doctors, he said AI is meant to be a tool for physicians.

Dr Kornprom said Thailand has the potential to build an ecosystem of AI medical startups because of its strong medical sector, which has plenty of data and use cases.

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