Thailand’s refocus on medical travel

Tourist shot in Thailand, which is a popular destination for medical travel

Building on its good track record of handling the pandemic, Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-o-cha, says Thailand will use it to promote the country’s medical tourism and healthcare to attract foreign visitors. The June–September period, considered low season for Thai tourism, is seen as the key to lifting restrictions to attract more international patients. As Thailand attempts to highlight quality medical care to bolster the efforts of the tourism sector, we can expect continued acceleration and investment in this market.

Thailand expects tourist numbers to more than triple to nearly 1 million per month from October as the nation lifts most of the pandemic-era travel restrictions.

While the country has abolished mandatory COVID testing and quarantine for tourists, the pre-arrival registration and insurance requirement remain.

To reboot a struggling economy Thailand urgently needs a revival of tourism and medical tourism and hopes for large investments in technology and digital platforms by large overseas investors.

Building on the success of the Thailand Phuket Sandbox, a pilot project that allows fully vaccinated travellers to enter the Thai city without quarantine, the government is developing the island to become a medical plaza to attract medical tourism.

Considering that contracting COVID-19 is still a concern for many who are traveling to foreign countries, Thailand’s attempt to promote medical tourism is of great relevance. Prioritising medical tourism provides tourists with quality medical services, but more importantly, such reassurance may help motivate other foreigners who are looking to explore the country.

By ensuring that medical tourism is leveraged, businesses located in Phuket will benefit from the expected increase in tourists. This will reinvigorate the local economy within the city, which is important as many businesses are still struggling.

if Thai cities can replicate the success of the Phuket Sandbox, the national economy will likely experience accelerated growth and recovery.

Potential Role of Smart Hospitals

To better incorporate medical care as a focal point within the Thai tourism landscape, an area that can be explored is the concept of smart hospitals.  This has been analysed by consulting firm, YCP Solidiance, in its recent white paper “The Future of Smart Hospitals in Thailand: How Digitalization is Transforming Thailand’s Hospital System

In comparison to traditional medical care facilities, smart hospitals are primarily driven by digital healthcare via a technological infrastructure that provides advantages such as energy efficiency, optimised operations and management, and resiliency, among others.

The white paper includes a case study on the Samut Prakan public hospital that suggested digital technology and a subsequent transition to becoming a smart hospital optimised facility operations and improved patient accessibility. The hospital used artificial intelligence to develop chatbots and automated machines that not only lowered healthcare costs but also shortened lengthy patient queues. Such solutions reduced workload and enhanced efficiency as they allowed professionals to dedicate time to other tasks that were more urgent. Further developing smart hospitals throughout Thailand will not only improve the care that is at the disposal of potential tourists but will also help transform the nation’s medical landscape.