Thailand has been internationally accepted as a country with an exceptional and attractive public health system. In particular, its strong point is how over 70% of the Thai public health system operated by government hospitals and community public health centers cover an area of 77 provinces, accounting for 10,000 public health units with around 330,000 related staff, while the proportion of private hospitals is only around 30%.
The strengths of the Thai public health system have enabled nationwide coverage and convenient and effective implementation of policy. For example, during the outbreak of flu and dengue fever, the government was able to promptly set the guidelines and distribute them to over 10,000 public health centers, supporting the implementation of policy on disease control to operate effectively.
However, limitations exist under the mechanisms that govern a significant number of public health organizations i.e. communication difficulty in conveying details and guidelines to all 10,000 public health organizations with the same understanding.
For some time now, information technology for Personal Health Records or PHR has been in development for public health organizations across the country under the cooperation of Software Industry Promotion Agency (Public Organization) or SIPA, Ministry of Public Health, National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), and National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) with the purpose to create personal health records for the use at the provincial level as well as to set a standard to connect public health information across the country in one database.
This Personal Health Records or PHR connects information among clinics, hospitals, and organizations related to public health in each province e.g. general information, medical records, medication allergic reactions, including information on personal health care, exercise, and medical check records so that people can take care of their health while waiting for their next doctor appointment as well as to compare and follow the doctor’s instructions. The Personal Health Records system also allows both the public and patients to systematically manage their health information and the health information of their family, as well as to follow up and immediately make appointments with a doctor online.
Currently, the Personal Health Records has been launched as a pilot project in the Nakhon Nayok province and will soon be implemented in four provinces namely Phuket, Roi Et, Petchabun, and Kanchanaburi. Each province will design the storage of the database at the PHR Data Center, which will give the public access to PHR data anywhere and anytime via computer, tablet, smartphone, and other smart devices.
Nakhon Nayok province has conducted the PHR pilot project since 2014 under the purview of the Nakhon Nayok Provincial Public Health Office. SIPA participated in development of the prototype system and trial in four districts of Nakhon Nayok Province, covering Nakhon Nayok Hospital, 3 community hospitals, and 56 sub-district health promoting hospitals. To use this system, people are required to register with the health manager responsible for the service delivery unit of the area.
The PHR project is regarded as a prototype for developing a health information system platform with a data structure standard that can be passed down to software development firms to continue and further expand. Functions of the PHR system cover several scopes of utilization i.e. Software Platform, Open Technology, Database Management System, Data Warehouse, Big Data Analytics, Intelligent Search, Visualization, Cloud System, Machine Learning, and Development of Wearable Devices Connection in the future.
For this PHR system, SIPA studied and developed the system and software to provide service to the public in order to increase the accessibility of information technology for people in local areas as well as to increase the opportunity for health care and follow-up. SIPA supported the development of the application for software developers to further develop and expand, with the hope that more health care applications will be available for people, supporting the growth of the software industry in line with the country’s goal of promoting Thailand as a manufacturer of healthcare software.
For the cooperation of the four Provincial Public Health Offices under this cooperation framework, SIPA has supported the connection and integration of provincial public health information or Health Data Center to the PHR system designed by the team. SIPA also organized training for provincial health managers as well as expanded the benefits of the program to the public so that they can take part in the utilization of the system.
From the development of this PHR system, SIPA expects that the people in these four provinces will fully benefit from the accessibility to their health data and the utilization of the system for efficient health care and medication. After the successful completion of this phase, SIPA will expand and implement the system across the country.