Behind this Thai hospital’s physical and digital growth aspirations

Dr Varis Vimolchalao, Chief Operating Officer of Srisawan Hospital in Thailand, shares about the hospital’s expansion to Bangkok, and plans to improve its digital infrastructure

Srisawan Hospital, a 200-bed tertiary facility, is already an established name in the central Thailand region of Naksonsawan. Set up in 1996, it offers specialty treatments in areas such as cardiology and oncology, and has received JCI international accreditation.

The hospital has a strong commitment to care for and serve the community around it, and which had been strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Chief Operating Officer Dr Varis Vimolchalao.

Last year, it started running a home vaccination programme for residents of Nakhonsawan, after noticing that some were wary to visit hospitals to get their shots due to fear of infection. Nurses and paramedics travelled around the area to administer the shots at residents’ homes, particularly targeting children and those with chronic diseases. In addition, it operated a 450-bed field hospital for COVID-19 patients during the pandemic surge last year.

It now hopes to carry over that commitment over to its new facility in capital city Bangkok. Slated to open in September 2022, this would be a 60-bedded, 10,000 sq ft hospital that will offer specialties in cardiac catheterisation, oncology, a dedicated Stroke Unit with Mechanical Thrombectomy, and so on.

Digitalisation plans afoot

Besides expanding its physical footprint, Srisawan is also ready to take the next leap in digitalising its hospital services and operations.

The hospital has been using a Hospital Information System (HIS) for the past decade, but will be upgrading it this year to improve efficiency of operations.

“We are targeting to go live with the upgraded HIS before the planned opening of our Bangkok hospital,” says Dr Vimolchalao.

“The new HIS system will be a browser-based application for easy and convenient access by our clinicians and staff. It will also allow smooth transmission of data between the two hospitals.”

This will be coupled with a transition to a full EMR system, from the current partial EMR implementation at Srisawan.

“Currently, we have implemented certain EMR functionalities, such as CPOE (computerised physician order entry). We are planning a full EMR system implementation, which will move the majority of our hospital operations to digital,” he adds.

The digital experience is underway for its patients as well, with patient receptiveness towards digital health and telemedicine reaching an all-time high, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Srisawan had developed an in-house digital platform for its COVID-19 patients who were recovering from home. The hospital would deliver patient monitoring devices such as oximeters, thermometers, and blood pressure monitors, to the patients’ homes at the start of their recovery or isolation periods. Patients were then able to input their vital signs and monitoring data into the platform, and Srisawan’s doctors duly alerted if any of the data falls out of the normal range.

All in all, digitalisation is set to feature strongly in Srisawan’s growth journey. The hospital hopes to also expand telehealth services to its non-COVID patients in the future.

Vision for a digital future

The rise of digital health technologies is set to transform not just communications between clinicians and patients, but also clinician-to-clinician, Dr Varis noted.

A challenge faced by tertiary hospitals today is the volume of referral patients from primary and secondary facilities, many of whom do not actually require tertiary care.

“With telehealth platforms, clinicians in primary and secondary clinics can check in with their counterparts in tertiary facilities first to discuss the patient’s case history and condition, before making a decision whether to refer the patient for tertiary care,” Dr Varis points out. “This will increase overall efficiency in the healthcare system.”

He sees digital health technologies playing a key role in improving patient communications and data transparency in the future.

“For inpatients, they generally meet their doctors twice a day, at fixed timings during ward rounds. Having a platform where it is possible for patients to access their information, ask questions, schedule virtual consultations any time of the day – that would empower patients and improve information flow.”