The opportunity for Thailand to shine in the global wellness industry


Thapana Boonyapravit Special to The Nation

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked Thailand as one of the top six countries in Asia with high medical and healthcare service capabilities. This ranking is confirmed by the results of coping with incidents and the relative success in controlling the spread of Covid-19 over the past three years.

The main factors that have contributed to Thailand's high potential in the medical and healthcare sector are its investments in infrastructure that facilitate research in technology, innovation, capacity building of healthcare professionals, and academic development. Key components include establishing a comprehensive network of medical and healthcare services that cover all areas.

The infrastructure in the field of medicine and healthcare that supports Thailand's capabilities consists of four main foundations.

The first foundation is medical and health science schools, concentrated in the Bangkok metropolitan area. It includes Mahidol University, Chulalongkorn University, and Chulabhorn Royal Academy as leading institutions. In the northern region, there are two main centres — Mae Fah Luang University and Chiang Mai University. In the northeastern region, Khon Kaen University is the leading institution for the central and upper parts of Isaan. The lower Isaan region has the bases of Suranaree University of Technology and Ubon Ratchathani University.

In the southern region, the major base is Songklanagarind Hospital, both the central campus in Hat Yai and the medical campus in Phuket, which the government supports with a budget of 5.12 billion baht to construct an Andaman International Medical and Health Center, as well as the medical base of Walailak University in Nakhon Si Thammarat province.

The second foundation is the training, medical services, and healthcare services of the Ministry of Public Health. It includes central and specialised hospitals distributed throughout all regions. This foundation provides services by highly qualified personnel with a state healthcare insurance system that serves the entire population.

The third foundation is the private hospital medical and healthcare services. This base currently serves as an important medical service unit for patients and health tourists from abroad.

Some businesses have reached agreements with international health insurance networks, resulting in a significant influx of patients and medical tourists seeking healthcare services. This leads to influx of funds into the country. However, this infrastructure does not include local healthcare facilities, or alternative and wellness services that are dispersed throughout the country.

The fourth foundation is the core of the ecosystem that supports competitiveness. It consists of the pharmaceutical industry, medical equipment industry, medical food industry, and herbal and herbal products industry.

It can be seen that all four foundations, especially the four branches of the healthcare industry, do not include the health insurance industry and the research and development industry. Investment in Thailand is in a continuous expanding state, which aligns with the global market.

The wellness industry is being transformed into a key pillar of medical and health infrastructure that will strengthen the Thai economy in the long term. It has the potential and high capabilities to compete for market share internationally.

(Thapana Boonyapravit is president of the Thai Association for Town Planning)