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Building a reliable IT ecosystem for the Thai public health sector

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The primary goal of any hospital or healthcare provider is their patients’ health and wellbeing. When it comes to embracing new technologies, it’s more about improving patient care, services and experiences to help them recover than deploying cutting-edge solutions or cost reductions – but an effective IT ecosystem should do both.

The Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index 2021 survey shows 76 per cent of Thai respondents agreed strongly that hybrid cloud was an ideal solution, and 82 per cent said Covid-19 has caused IT to be viewed more strategically within their organisations. Respondents around the globe agreed Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation that is likely to shape the future of healthcare.

External pressures

The Thai public health sector faces dual problems: the Covid-19 outbreak and the rising number of elderly people in Thailand. The Public Health Ministry reports that in 2021, the number of 60-year-olds in Thailand will rise by 20 per cent. The National Statistical Office estimates Thailand will become a full-fledged ageing society in 2022. The government has already placed the ageing society on the national agenda, and healthcare providers are preparing accordingly.

The emergence of the Covid-19 has required significant internal and external changes in the working practices of public health organisations, such as managing remote working by staff. The pressure brought by Covid-19 has also been a catalyst for change in Thai public health organisations. IT decision-makers must now carefully weigh the impacts and benefits of implementing new technologies.

The path to transition

Cheryl Rodenfels, chief technology officer of Americas Healthcare at Nutanix, identifies four areas that will help healthcare IT leaders transition to hybrid cloud: culture, security, IT modernisation challenges and cost.

Building a reliable IT ecosystem for the Thai public health sector

Culture: Nothing gets done inside large organisations without ideological buy-in from the top. Breaking cultural barriers is often necessary to create an IT services organisation that is adaptable and proactive. Healthcare leaders need to be courageous if the technology is going to be embedded effectively.

Security: In assessing risk, IT teams need to have a clear approach to data security and a plan for mitigating cyberattacks, because patient data is highly sensitive. We all know that electronic healthcare records (EHR) are worth a great deal of money on the black market, so IT managers must protect patient data and be prepared to move it to safe places, such as to an on-premises data centre. Hybrid cloud is the most efficient path across multiple cloud platforms and securely bridges both clouds into a single fabric.

IT modernisation challenges: Aside from the cybersecurity and data security concerns, modernising legacy applications and systems can pose enormous challenges. A lot of healthcare applications are not designed for the cloud, so healthcare providers need to develop their apps in the cloud or re-platform them. Healthcare providers realise their technology systems must be resilient, scalable, quickly adaptable to support remote working, and rely on cloud computing. We have seen an increasing number of IT deployments in the Thai public health services systems such as managing medical records and application developments like the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)’s central application or ThaiChana app.

Eye on cost: This is the final consideration on the path to the cloud for healthcare organisations and hospitals. With the pandemic driving accelerated digital transformations and challenging traditional business models, operating in the cloud is an attractive option, but HIT leaders need to keep an eye on their operating costs, as unmanaged or poorly managed cloud can creep in.

Everybody is driving down their operating costs. No one wants to drive them up, which is what has happened with a lot of the cloud technology. That is why a hybrid cloud system’s ability to manage costs across private and public clouds is so appealing.

Case Study

Thailand already has success stories that demonstrate how technology is helping the healthcare providers win the battles and transform the sector.

Songklanagarind Hospital, a medical, educational and research hub supporting 14 provinces in the South, has deployed cutting-edge technology to improve service performance. With Nutanix’ hyperconverged infrastructure platform, the hospital has been able to implement new systems rapidly, flexibly and smoothly. During the Covid-19 outbreak, some medical personnel have had to work remotely, and others might have been quarantined. Nevertheless, personnel have been able to access the hospital internal systems through Nutanix’ VDI by using their own devices to take care of patients with familiarity, convenience and security.

Amid the second wave of the outbreak, Thailand, like other countries, has pinned its hope on Covid vaccines. When programme rolls out, Songklanagarind Hospital will be able to support national vaccine distribution.

At present, Songklanagarind Hospital has mainly deployed Nutanix’ private cloud which is ideal for multiple services with huge data and transactions that require speed, flexibility, and security. In the meantime, a public cloud is appropriate for health data exchanging such as HIE (Hospital Information Exchange) systems etc. While the hospital continues to deploy the private cloud for its key functions, it is looking at trialling a hybrid cloud system in the next 3-5 years.

Technology should always be about making things better for people, and there are few areas where it can have more meaningful impact than healthcare. While invisible, the hybrid cloud will serve as the basis of better service, and ultimately better health.

Thawipong Anotaisinthawee is country manager at Nutanix (Thailand).

Published : March 15, 2021

By : Thawipong Anotaisinthawee