Concern for basics as ministry rolls out Bt3bn project Even though technology has been deployed in Thailand’s healthcare industry for three decades, and despite the current government’s ambitious policy to turn the country into a healthcare hub in Southeast Asia, the country has never had a strategy or a policy for establishing a solid national electronic healthcare (e-health) system. The Nation’s Asina Pornwasin reports.
To make Thailand into a country where people can expect equality in receiving high-quality health and medical services no matter where they seek them, the country needs a distinguished national e-health policy as a framework for its investment in healthcare technology.
So says Boonchai Kijsanayoti, health informatics officer at the Public Heath Ministry.
Moreover, he says the country’s health and medical systems need a national e-health governance body as well as additional investment in healthcare-related ICT technology.
Currently, Thailand’s annual IT expenses for the healthcare industry amount to between 3 and 6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), whereas the United States spends 15 per cent of its GDP per year on healthcare-related IT investments.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), e-health means the use of information and communications technology (ICT) to improve the quality of healthcare, the overall health of the population and the efficiency of the healthcare system.
Boonchai said the establishment of an e-health system required a development model, and there were three main elements involved: foundation policy and strategy – such as governance, fixing of policy, funding and infrastructure; enabling policy and strategy – such as citizen protection, equality and interoperability; and e-Health applications – such as public health services, knowledge services and providers of service.
Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry has rolled out the second phase of the National Health Information System, covering the three years between 2010 and 2012. The plan aims to improve healthcare services by providing a health information system at 11,160 healthcare points of service throughout the country.
Under the plan, there are four stages of implementation. First is the establishment of the infrastructure and networks for the new system, connecting healthcare service facilities with the Internet and establishing health data centres at provincial health offices. It will also connect central health-information offices with provincial health data centres and develop health-information security systems.
Second, the ministry will develop both the infrastructure for a Health Information Exchange and national standards for minimal health-data sets, health-information messaging standards, health-information privacy and security standards and health-terminology standards.
The third stage will involved the implementation of telemedicine services using an Internet connection (Web technology) to provide teleconsultations between primary care providers and secondary care providers in provincial or district hospitals. It will enable 252 provincial or district hospitals around the country to serve 1,500 subdistrict health-promotion hospitals.
The fourth stage will be the implementation of a health television system with the aim of providing health-education broadcasting and health-threat alerts from the ministry’s central office directly to public healthcare service facilities across country.
The government has allocated Bt 2.97 billion to roll out the plan over the next three years.
Additionally, the ministry is working on the second phase of the National Health Standard Data Set, concerning standards for clinical data. It has been working with the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (Nectec) and the National Health Security Office (NHSO), Boonchai said.
He said the ministry was also continuing work on the first phase of National Health Standard Data Set, which was due to end this year. The work involves harmonising reimbursement data sets of three health-insurance schemes: social security insurance, national health security insurance and civil service medical benefits, as well as decreasing the reporting workloads of health-service providers.
"We will continue to work on the development of national standard codes, including medical disease classifications, drug codes, the Thailand drug code, the health facilities code and the laboratory code," Boonchai said.