Thailand should push to become a leading medical hub

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Thailand may be famous as a tourist destination, but not so much as a hub of medical excellence. Of course plenty of people come to the Kingdom for medical treatment, and after doing some research it is clear to see that Thailand can offer superior medical care often at a lower cost than other countries.

Yet Thailand has not fully solidified its place as a major medical hub and does not widely enjoy this status on the world stage just yet.

At a recent forum held by Forbes Thailand called ‘Thailand’s Mega Trends Forum 2020’ the positive and negative impacts of becoming a leading medical hub were discussed. The opportunity exists for Thailand to become South East Asia‘s first medical hub before new pandemics emerge.

The dean of Siriraj Hospital’s Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Prasit Watanapa, was quoted as saying, “Humans, animals and the environment are intertwined. As long as we cause climate change, we will face new diseases, as the migration of [animal] vectors brings about the rapid spread of viruses,” adding, “Covid-25 and Covid-30 will come. Three months ago, I warned of a second wave [of the coronavirus]. We should learn to tackle it and identify an opportunity.”

He noted that there had been four other pandemics already in just the last 20 years including SARS, ZIKA, Swine Flu and MERS, but these had been more successfully contained worldwide than the current Covid 19 outbreak. As well, prevention should be a priority since vaccines may be in short supply at critical times as developed nations rush to secure hundreds of millions of doses.

Dr. Prasit Watanapa was also quoted as saying, “Our local development is very limited because we still import vaccines from abroad. However, vaccination is now a matter of national security,” adding, “I don’t think CLMV [Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam] countries will set up vaccine factories. Indonesia is the only exception [in the region]. Thailand should tap into this opportunity now that we know our strengths in handling Covid-19.”

Technology should also play a leading role in diagnostics and tracing.  IT systems should better help communication of health protocols as well as improve the targeting of medical care.

Dr. Prasit Watanapa was further quoted as saying, “If we can enhance our health literacy, everything will become much more convenient. We can predict the risk of cancer, drug allergies, and optimize medical procedures. With the help of AI technology we have received from China, we have been able to diagnose Covid-19 much faster and with increased accuracy,” adding, “5G technology has helped support telemedicine. Currently, we are collaborating with Huawei to develop AI and Deep Learning technology for healthcare, which other countries in the region are not able to do. Thailand is a leader.”