Trang Hospital staff members help a visitor print out a queue card from a “smart kiosk”.
Trang Hospital staff members help a visitor print out a queue card from a “smart kiosk”.

Public Health Ministry pushes use of emerging technology by state hospitals

national January 01, 2019 01:00

By THE NATION

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THE PUBLIC Health Ministry is encouraging hospitals under its supervision to tap the power of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), “Big Data” and artificial intelligence (AI).



Drawing on technological advances could improve health services and operational systems including patient data storing/management, and follows the Thailand 4.0-inspired “Smart Hospital” policy, according to Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn.

“The idea is to ensure that people efficiently receive safe and quality health services and that medical personnel have modern and effective means for seamless working, while administrators have a quality and updated health information system,” he said

The use of IoT, AI and Big Data (large and complex data sets to be processed and analysed to reveal patterns for new insights and accurate predictions) improves the quality of in-depth analysis of health information from all angles and improves planning for appropriate services for each location, he added.

The ministry now has over 14 billion records of raw information provided via 70 per cent of state hospitals. They are stored on the ministry’s “Big Data” facilities in the Cloud system, Piyasakol said. 

This information can be used in healthcare policymaking to prevent and treat disease, as well as tackle health challenges faced by Thais, he said.

Big Data

Hospitals can apply Big Data technology to store, analyse, process and synthesise people’s health information, as well as track the dispensing of medicine, lab operations, financial matters, equipment/supply procurement and human-resource management. This system will also help integrate the IT systems of different hospital units, the minister added. 

Piyasakol said IoT technology can also be used to link systems online, such as patient queue systems, smartphone applications and electronic medical records, so hospitals can exchange patient-related information. 

He added that IoT was being implemented on a pilot basis now, in order to ensure adherence to an international security standard.

An e-health system like this – which includes setting doctor appointments, managing queues, access to personal health information, dispensing medicines and referring patients – will make diagnosis, treatment and access to patient information more effective. It will also cut down on waiting time, while boosting convenience and accuracy. 

Piyasakol said Trang Hospital was a good example of IoT use, as it no longer uses out-patient cards and has scanned and stored online patient records. New patient information is now collected electronically, he added. 

Use of IoT

It is also using “smart kiosks” to register out-patients, which cuts down on waiting time, prints queue cards and checks on appointments and healthcare benefit coverage for inquirers. 

The system also sends a reminder of the doctor’s appointment to patients via the Line app a day ahead, he added. 

Ten hospitals under the Public Health Region 5 Office are applying the automatic queue system via the “Hygge Medical Service” app, while others such as Samut Sakhon and Maharak hospitals use an automatic medicine dispenser system.

The ministry is also conducting research on applying AI technology to assist doctors in diagnosis, Piyasakol said. For instance, Bangkok-based Rajavithi Hospital’s Centre of Medical Excellence in Retina has joined a Google research team to study the ability of AI software to read digitised retina images to help in the diagnosis of retinopathy.

This software has proven to be faster and as accurate as a face-to-face diagnosis. 

Hence, the team is now further studying its potential for real-time diagnosis in order to ease the workload of medical staff and boost accuracy, so patients have better access to treatment. 

Rajavithi Hospital plans to implement more innovative treatments in the future, such as 3D visualisation-assisted surgery, 3D-printed cast for fractures or the use of virtual reality (VR) to distract patients from pain, the minister said. 

Public Health permanent secretary Dr Sukhum Kanchanapimai said the ministry and Siam Commercial Bank had jointly launched “MOPH Connect” Line account in mid-November as a communication channel. Users can use this account to get information on participating hospitals and locations, make queue reservations and get an advance reminder of a doctor’s appointment.

It will also allow users to express their opinions, make donations and submit donation details for tax deduction, he said. 

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