ooca, GDT and DKSH share their perspective in Expert Talk: HealthTech/Telemedicine

On Thursday, 22 July, GetLinks hosted Expert Talk: HealthTech and Telemedicine, which featured three HealthTech experts:

  1. Sudhichai Chokekijchai (Dr.Aob) – Head of Medical at  Good Doctor Technology Thailand
  2. Kanpassorn Suriyasangpetch (Dr.Eix) – CEO/ Founder at Ooca
  3. Wanida Phaengthian (Khun Ton)- Senior Executive Manager, Services Development at DKSH

with Nareephas Labanukrom (Khun June) – Country Manager at GetLinks as a Moderator this time with 2 main sessions:

  • Panel Discussion: To get to know the perspective of people in the HealthTech and Telemedicine industry and what is inspiration or interesting information do they have?
  • Q&A: Questions from interviews with new generations to get opinions and feedback on HealthTech and Telemedicine.

 

The first session at the Panel Discussion was to dive into the aspects of those who work in the HealthTech and Telemedicine industries and what interesting information they would share.

 

Khun June: How does technology disrupt healthcare and medicine? What’s the biggest or the first challenge you face in Thailand?

Dr.Aob: I believe that Thailand is not behind or inferior compared to others in terms of technology. However, with all the problems going around right now whether it’s covid or other diseases that might have limited us from accessing doctors and hospitals as well as dentists or pharmacists. Though there is no Covid, I believe that our way of living will keep changing.

Even with the way we work, we can now communicate through technology which means that Healthcare should also adapt to that as well. From the traditional way of service that users have to go to use the service by themselves, it is now changed into the service providers themselves approaching and providing to the users for more convenience. The traditional beliefs or familiarity of patients having to meet doctors in person and interacting is something that people get used to doing. So, I think the main challenge would be to shift them off the traditional way.

Dr.Eix: Honestly, the challenge in doing Telemedicine in Thailand is that, initially, doctors were not comfortable with using the technology, doubting whether the implemented technology would actually help or it would be harmful. For instance, recording a video of the patients is violating their privacy rights or not. It is not the same as being at the hospital, they are not being able to interact with patients. This might be related to the feelings and to adapt technology to what we already get used to doing.

Khun Ton: As well as the logistics of the medicine, there are so many restrictions. It is completely different compared to going to hospitals or directly meeting doctors since doctors can be the person who directly prescribes the medicine but just shifts the process to online. However, for the medicine transportation, we cannot deliver it to patients after any consultations with us.

The challenge would be how everyone tries to step out of their comfort zones. This includes anyone that would be at an advantage or disadvantaged such as doctors, nurses, dentists, psychiatrists, or even medicine transportation.

 

Khun June: In the future, Do you think that HealthTech or online doctor innovation will become the New Normal and replace the doctor at the hospital?

Dr.Aob: Honestly, we have to understand that telemedicine is not a thing that can replace the traditional ways of medical treatment. On the other side, telemedicine will come in and enhance the quality of the medical staff’s performance instead of replacing them. Currently, even the Office of Customer Protection Board in Thailand is relying on telemedicine to help treat the patients. We use telemedicine to monitor patients’ body temperature, oxygen saturation and follow up their symptoms, etc. It can even be the process of delivering medicine to patients for basic treatments that can be done by the patients themselves.

From my perspective, I don’t think it will replace the traditional medical practices but instead, it will definitely help the patients even more or even to general users in order to take care of their health at a better level. Therefore, telemedicine is not limited to just the treatment and consultations in hospitals but instead, telemedicine will have to rely on the advice of traditional doctors to transform your way of life. 

Dr.Eix: No matter what, the face-to-face meetings with doctors at the hospital will be the basic requirement to receive any diagnosis, whether it’s the delivering the information, body check-ups as well as other interventions that cannot be treated by just medicine. This means that it will be better if we combine these two together, between the traditional way of meeting doctors and the new medical practices like telemedicine.

Khun Ton: I think it will rather be the ‘New Alternative Normal’. Previously we used to have only face-to-face, physical contacts, and on-site diagnoses. However, this will be an additional option since in the field of medical treatment, whether it’s chronic diseases and any emergencies, it is best to receive direct on-site treatment. From having only one option, and now we have two. This also means that it can reduce the pressure and workload for the medical workers as well.

 

Khun June: How does HealthTech support or will support to make people’s lives better or easier? (For example, Doctors now can do surgery via video conference, people can easily get diagnosed by the doctor remotely)

Dr.Eix: Honestly, Telemedicine is not only about medical consulting through video calls but telemedicine happens when there are medical practices happening between two parties that are not together in the same place. For example, if we have a doctor friend, and we send a picture of our symptom and ask if it is dangerous, this can be considered as telemedicine. Therefore, it can be seen that telemedicine is very wide as an industry.

Dr.Aob: It relates to telecommunication. It involves people being at two different places along with the process of treating patients or health consultations and honestly. It involves a lot of fields.

 

Khun June: At this time, Thailand is now entering an elderly society. How will HealthTech be able to facilitate this segment and will there be restrictions on access to technology?

Dr.Aob: I think that the most important fact is, technology should adapt itself to approach the group of people who will use the service, which should result in more friendly users. For Thai society, we may not have any trouble because Thai society is a close family. Many families actually have children and grandchildren to help the elderly to use telemedicine and let them directly contact a doctor by themselves. However, in the case of bandwidth, their accessibility might be low, it’s just simply like using a phone where they will be able to contact and use the ‘voice to text’ feature as well that can be changed into a message to the doctor or to their chosen consultant. 

Khun Ton: Our society has entered the elderly age but it also must be seen that each person has a different status. We must choose the target audience of our Telemedicine or Telepharmacy, etc. What is our target group? Then we have to focus and invest in the right place and the right time too.

Dr.Eix: The obstacles between the elderlies and technology depend on which group we are talking about. If we look at the elderly at this age, in fact, in our country, there are quite a lot of tech-savvy elderly people who can use iPads already, and this is more than enough.

 

Khun June: Since the majority of GetLink’s audiences are employees, especially from the HR department, do you have any significant concerns in terms of taking care of health issues that employees have to face (mentally and physiologically) and how can healthtech/telemedicine help support employees/HR department that are facing these current issues?

 

Dr.Eix: ooca also has a mode that takes care of people in the organization. Corporate customers who want to take care of their employees can use ooca for their company. Through our B2B mode, they can also monitor the main causes of stress, what they are uncomfortable with, and how much pressure their employees have. Firstly, the number one issue is about their ‘Well-being’. Sometimes, it’s from WFH, stress, or insecurity about their own personal well-being that may have been affected by COVID, etc. Secondly, it might be about their Career Path where there can be problems and uncertainty such as being unsure of their own career path, etc. The last one is about their relationship at work in relation to their boss, their team, and different opinions amongst coworkers, which all of the factors may come from many things. But I must say that In this era, it’s about COVID, whether it’s the impact on the economy or the lockdown measures, leading to the freezing of jobs as well as negatively affecting sales and corporate income.

Khun Ton: WFH, seems like it would be comfortable, no need to drive out through traffic for 2-3 hours a day, but in reality, no one knows whether the H in WFH is Home or Hell because everyone has to sit in meetings all the time. Especially during the first period of WFH, we had meeting video calls all the time because they wanted the business to keep going. They try to engage everyone to come to the meeting and there is no time to rest. Additionally, It will definitely be difficult for extroverts who like to hang out with people. But they are not able to meet anyone and only sit in front of a screen to have meetings all day.  This could be something that everyone is worried about. Now, I am sure that now everyone in an organization, they are holding tight onto their job to make sure to maintain their jobs and keep earing money.

Dr.Aob: We categorize the consultations that employees normally reach to us into two equal groups. One group is simple diseases where it can include such as a cold, sore throat, or headache. However, we cannot say that the other is behind in terms of numbers. As I have learned, it’s around half and a half where it is about the Health-Related Environment. For example, the most common questions we get are about Office Syndrome and Dry Eyes. It is something that we need to add to the organization so they can return to the process of taking care of their employees and creating a more efficient working environment.

 

Khun June: From the wider perspective of Healthtech, it can be seen that the industry will grow rapidly and widely accepted. Is it possible that this growth will help open new positions in this industry or enhance the medical staff such as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists any further second job or income?

Dr.Aob: The aspects within telemedicine might be different from the hospitals or clinics in general which suggests the importance of the technicians in relation to IT. We have to keep updating our technology to keep up with our users, making our system more user-friendly which might mean the group that is able to develop this, will definitely grow. Even the doctors and nurses themselves might be required to have extra skills. For example, within our medical team, some of our doctors are experts on the IT aspects. Sometimes when they have conversations with the IT teams, they are able to communicate their needs and also have to understand and speak the same language as them. One of our doctors also has good writing skills that are useful in terms of publishing their knowledge into words where general readers can come in and learn in a more understandable form. 

Dr.Eix: Back then, telemedicine was done through satellites which required huge equipment, leading to the importance of having a Tele Presentater for organizing the service. However, it is not required anymore due to the advancement of technology. As the telemedicine industry is growing, the more experts there are.

Khun Ton: As we can clearly see, our medical staffs have at least worked in the ICU ward once, or even in the ER department but when they have shifted to this field, it does not require them to directly interact with patients anymore. From what we saw, is that we have started to work more with Developers in relation to IT. Just like what Dr.Aob said, communication is very difficult when they talk in their own IT language. On the other hand, we are also expressing what users want, what patients need, or what the pharmacists require, and how we can set this up to be able to work together well, doctors and nurses are also trying to learn their IT language as well.

 

The last session of the Expert Talk concluded with a Q&A from interviewing the new generation about HealthTech and Telemedicine Industry Perspectives.

 

Kkun June: It’s good to use technology to support healthcare because it’s easier and more convenient, but there are still some groups of people, such as the elder, who are not using the internet or smartphone. Is there any way to solve this issue, and make HealthTech or Telemedicine more accessible?

 

Dr.Eix: From the perspective where some people may find it difficult to use the device, it has a solution. Let’s say, they want patients to be able to use Telemedicine with doctors but are not comfortable with the tools or will need to rely on someone to do it for them. They adjust the process for patients that can at least watch TV, they have tried turning it into a smart TV. It turned out that patients were able to use Telemedicine through their TV.

Dr.Aob: I also see that technology has been adapting itself in order to approach its users. But in this case, there really is technology that already exists which can be used to support this issue. As I said, it’s Voice to Text. Making communication easier where it’s just like using a phone normally.

Watch the full video on YouTube

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