Interview with CEO Dr Chalerm Harnphanich.
By Pinky Fadullon and Nurfilzah Rohaidi – There is a growing demand for healthcare services in CLMV countries, and Bangkok Chain Hospital (BCH) wants to fill the gap, its CEO Dr Chalerm Harnphanich has exclusively told Hospital Insights Asia. This will take the form of either physical establishments or business collaborations, he says.
Part of this expansion is Kasemrad International Hospital Vientiane, a 254-bed hospital which will soon be opened in the Lao capital as BCH’s first overseas hospital. “This hospital will be opened in the first quarter of 2021 to be a one-stop diagnostic and therapeutic centre, incorporating all general and specialist medical services and facilities for the utmost convenience to local and international patients and visitors,” says Dr Harnphanich.
“Our vision is to be one of the leaders in the healthcare service industry in Thailand and Southeast Asia.”
A little closer to home, Dr Harnphanich shares the planned expansions in Sa Kaeo and Prachinburi provinces: Kasemrad Hospital Aranyaprathet and Kasemrad Hospital Prachinburi respectively. The former, which sits close to the Thai-Cambodia border, will be able to serve Thai residents as well as Cambodians that cross the border for medical treatments, he explains. “Our vision is to be one of the leaders in the healthcare service industry in Thailand and Southeast Asia.”
New in BCH: a robotic pharmacy
This year, BCH rolled out a robotic pharmacy dispensing system. This is one way to tackle a shortage of pharmacists, as well as improve how the hospital manages its operations, Dr Harnphanich explains. The hospital has also created a Teleradiology Consultation Network linking all the hospitals in the group, as part of efforts to improve access to care.
The consultation network is part of a long-term plan to develop telemedicine as a key service. In 2015, Dr Harnphanich first shared how BCH hopes to use telemedicine as one approach to integrating healthcare across ASEAN countries.
More tech improvements are on the horizon for BCH. Next up is a data centre: “We are planning to create BCH’s data centre so that information and data will be highly dependently available online for hospitals’ day-to-day operations,” remarks Dr Harnphanich. This data centre will boost reliability, accuracy and speed in accessing EMR data, he believes.
The patient safety problem
The Chief Executive is passionate about improving patient safety, which is a crucial topic he thinks needs more attention in the Thai healthcare space. “Its improvement demands a complex system-wide effort,” he asserts. He suggests that hospitals look at infection control; safe use of medicines; equipment safety; safe clinical practices; and safe environments of care, for a start.
And “despite growing interest in quality and safe treatments, there is still a widespread lack of awareness of the problem of adverse events”, Dr Harnphanich notes. He points out a lack of standards in identifying, measuring and reporting such events. It is a challenge to track and understand the frequency and causes of adverse events, and the impact they have on patients, he says. But if this puzzle can be solved, it will be easier to build effective methods of preventing them, the chief executive believes.
Yet, even if there are effective tracking solutions on the market, scalability can be a problem, Dr Harnphanich points out. “Although there are examples of successful initiatives for reducing the incidence of adverse events, none has been scaled up to embrace an entire health system.”
He recommends several approaches. First of all, there is a clear need to develop common definitions of patient safety, adverse events and any related terms actually mean. Next, the healthcare system needs to emphasise that the safety of patients is a “prime concern” when it comes to health system performance and quality management.
Thailand could also “investigate how the country and organisations classify, measure, report and attempt to prevent adverse events, and establish comprehensive evidence based on these practices”, says Dr Harnphanich. Finally, the healthcare space could establish a network of centres of excellence to spearhead research efforts, and promote public-private partnerships to develop responses and solutions.
BCH has ambitious goals to expand its network over the next few years. Technology is crucial to this, and so is the overhaul of workflows to make sure patient safety is a top priority in any of its hospitals.