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Thailand looks to bolster leadership position in medical tourism with focus on medical robotics, says GlobalData

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With an outstanding medical foundation that includes various internationally accredited medical facilities, qualified healthcare specialists and premium medical services along with a focus on medical robotics, Thailand is well-positioned to be the medical hub of Asia, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Medical tourism is one of the main sectors driving the Thai economy. To support the national transformation into an advanced economy driven by science, technology, and innovation, the government unveiled an ambitious 20-year strategy – Thailand 4.0 – in May 2016. Under the strategy, the Thai government has identified some targeted industries including automation and robotics, digital technology and, biofuel and biochemical.

In addition, to help the country attain the position as a hub of wellness and medical services within a ten-year time frame, the government unveiled ‘A Strategic Plan to Develop Thailand as an International Medical Hub (2016–2025)’ in September 2016. The plan aims to turn Thailand into a medical hub in four major areas: wellness, medical services, academics and products.

Prashant Khadayate, Medical Devices Analyst at GlobalData, says: “The Thailand government plans to embrace the innovation-driven economy with its Thailand 4.0 policy, with a focus on investing in the robotics. The use of medical robotics can further bolster its position in the medical tourism space, where it is the market leader among the Asian countries.

“Furthermore, it has become essential for Thailand to focus on medical robotics to manage its expanding healthcare needs from the future perspective as well. As per the UN report, 37% of Thailand’s population would be above 60 years by 2050.”

Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI), the government’s arm in facilitating and promoting investments, considers surgery-assist robots, therapeutic robots, patient care robots and similar robots as medical devices due to clear medical treatment functions. Some of the popular Thai medical robots are DINSOW (elderly care robot); FHASAI (robot-assisted therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders); SENSIBLE TAB (an arm rehabilitation robot); B-HIVE (a pharmacy automation system); and BUMBEE (a medical dispenser robot).

To promote medical robotics, many public and private organizations have been working closely to drive medical innovation. The Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Education have jointly set up a committee with a key responsibility to promote medical and health-related innovations.

Khadayate concludes: “According to the Global Wellness Institute, the global medical tourism market is estimated at $50-60bn annually. To leverage this opportunity, Thailand is broadly focusing on three aspects – increase use of medical robotics, spread awareness about the country’s medical tourism industry in various countries through trade events, and provide incentives to the industry players in terms of tax benefits and to the patients in terms of visa facilities.”