Thailand testing telemedicine to solve doctor shortage


Thailand’s embrace of the Internet of Things and advanced technologies could prove a boon to its citizens’ health as a local university is testing out a telemedicine program for people living in areas where doctors are in short supply.

“Thailand has a ratio of one physician per 3,000 people,” said Dr. Sirikasem Sirilak, dean of the medicine faculty at Naresuan University in Phitsanulok. The ration is much higher, however, in less developed provinces and remote and rural communities.

Thailand’s public health system has received praise from United Nations agencies and public health experts as a model for what developing nations can achieve. Despite its strong points, however, some challenges and weaknesses remain, and access to doctors in poor and remote communities are among them.

To respond to the shortfall in doctors and nurses, Naresuan University has launched a prototype technology project that delivers emergency telemedicine through a high-speed digital network in remote areas. The University is collaborating on the project with the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research and Development Fund for the Public Interest (BTFP).

Using the countrywide broadband network installed by the government, the telemedicine technology can synchronize data between district-level health-promotion hospitals and large hospitals with specialized physicians. That collaboration improves medical services in small hospitals.

Most district-level health clinics and promotion centers only have nurses on staff. Under the project, the nurses can now request a teleconsultation with specialist doctors through “Nu Med,” a mobile application.

Nurses can send lab results to the doctors for examination and advice through the app. Doctors can also access patients’ medical records to prescribe medicines.

About 1 million village health volunteers who visit patients in their communities will also be able to use the app.

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