Patient safety, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is one of the fundamental components in delivering quality healthcare and an important goal towards achieving Universal Health Care (UHC) across the world. Therefore, quality health services should be effective, safe, and patient-centric. To realise the benefits of quality health care, health services must be timely, equitable, integrated, and efficient.
The lack of integration and connectivity in healthcare ecosystems in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, are among the primary reasons patients fall through the cracks in these countries. Many patients are undiagnosed or receive a delayed diagnosis, sometimes months after the first symptoms or their first doctor visit. Because healthcare data is often not centralised, hospitals do not communicate patients' health records to each other, making it challenging for patients to navigate the system.
Data from Thailand shows that between 2008 and 2009, 5.2% of men and 1.9% of women diagnosed with diabetes were not treated. Meanwhile, 72% of people diagnosed with diabetes and under treatment still have poorly controlled, active disease. Although Thailand has implemented the Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS), there is still inequity in healthcare utilisation between the urban and rural populations, with urban dwellers more likely to seek healthcare than rural dwellers. Additionally, households with a higher proportion of chronically ill or older members have higher out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures due to a greater likelihood of utilising private healthcare facilities.
Such data draws our attention to gaps in healthcare access, which gives rise to the need for programmes that improve patient's access to services that can help them manage chronic diseases.
The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that cities will no longer be able to care for entire populations in hospitals alone as populations grow. This brings about the need for building an integrated healthcare ecosystem, aided by digitalisation, outside of the hospital setting that connects patients to healthcare providers and supports all their interactions within the system while relieving some pressure on hospitals. In a world where technology continues to shape our lives, it is vital to embrace digital connections as a step towards improving patient safety and as a reflection of the ever-evolving healthcare landscape. Hospitals remain vital to diagnosing and treating patients, especially when they suffer from chronic diseases requiring complex care in a controlled hospital setting. By leveraging technology to enhance communication, coordination, and patient engagement, we can digitally enable the existing healthcare system instead of disrupting or interfering with it.
Through its secure digital ecosystem, health companies enable patients' caregivers, attending physicians, and pharmacists to monitor their activities, such as going for check-ups and physiotherapy sessions, having meals, and taking medication. Now is the time for policy and decision-makers and people of authority in the healthcare sector to collaborate to develop more interconnected healthcare systems like those in finance or banking.
For example, since 2008, over 2,000 patients have enrolled in 11 of Axios International's patient assistance programmes in Thailand. These include patients with different types of cancer, rare diseases, and chronic diseases such as Crohn's disease.
Raphael Itah, Director Digital Health, Axios International, a pioneering healthcare access company