Healthcare to Thailand

Trends and opportunities

The market

Thailand is well-positioned to be a medical hub of Asia, with already a highly regarded medical sector. This is set to be boosted through policies aimed at promoting ‘Thailand, a hub of wellness and medical services’ over a ten-year time frame from 2016-2025, which is accompanied by Thai Board of Investment (BOI) promoting foreign investment in local manufacturing of medical equipment.

Demand for healthcare services in Thailand is driven by an ageing population, extensive healthcare coverage, universal insurance since 2001 plus a large medical tourism industry.

Thailand’s healthcare market was worth A$ 32.4 billion in 2015, with A$ 4.41 billion in private health spending. There are over 320 private hospitals accounting for 23 per cent of all hospitals in Thailand (Source: Thailand Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare Report Q3 2016, Business Monitor International).

Generally, the upper-middle class of the population pay for quicker services (and better facilities) at private hospitals. An exception to this are Thailand’s highly regarded university hospitals which serve people of all levels of society; are often better equipped with new devices and equipment than both public and private hospitals; and are staffed with esteemed medical practitioners/professors.

Key private healthcare providers in Thailand are:

Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS): is Thailand’s largest medical services operator and is the leader healthcare solution provider. BDMS owns and manages six major hospital groups: Bangkok Hospital, Samitivej Hospital, BNH Hospital, Phyathai Hospital, Paolo Memorial Hospital and the Royal Hospital with a number of hospitals in areas such as Pattaya, Phuket, Samui and Cambodia.

BDMS plans to spend A$ 167.6 million over the next three years to expand the Bangkok Hospital. This facility provides tertiary care, with neurology, orthopaedics, and spine specialty centers.

With an aim to capture the business opportunities in preventive medicine, longevity and anti-aging, BDMS is also developing a medical center which will be the first holistic healthcare center in Asia (Source: Thailand Medical Devices Report Q1 2018, Business Monitor International).

Bumrungrad International Hospital: Bumrungrad International is a Joint Commission International accredited , multi-specialty hospital located in the heart of Bangkok. Bumrungrad is one of the largest private hospitals in Southeast Asia, with 580 beds and over 30 specialty centers , and offers state-of-the-art diagnostics, therapeutic and intensive care facilities as a one-stop medical center.

Medical Tourism

The Thai government promotes Thailand as a medical tourism hub, focusing on medical treatments, health promotion, traditional and alternative medicine, and health-related products (specifically Thai herbs).

Thailand’s advanced private healthcare facilities attract large numbers of medical tourists. Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation is sought after by these facilities to demonstrate the high standards of care delivery. While upholding high standards, the cost of medical services in Thailand is very competitive, with medical procedures estimated to be 30 to 40 per cent cheaper than in Australia.

The medical tourism industry receives strong and continuous support from government agencies such as the Immigration Office, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Ministry of Public Health and the Thai Board of Investment.

Digital health

According to Frost & Sullivan’s report on SEA Healthcare Market Trends and Opportunities in 2016, the healthcare IT market in Thailand is projected to be around A$ 80 million in 2017.

Key factors affecting growth of the healthcare IT market are medical tourism and the advancement of the internet and technology. Thai hospitals are also upgrading IT infrastructure to maintain and obtain JCI accreditation.

Thailand has several initiatives under the Ministry of Public Health and the new Ministry of Digital Economy and Society to develop the health IT industry.

Projects include:

  • Connecting 9,000 sub-district hospitals nationwide with high speed broadband internet
  • Centralising databases with patients’ health profiles
  • Developing big data analytics capability e.g in preparation for epidemics.
Senior Living

By only 2021 Thailand will be considered an aged society with 20 per cent of the population 60 years and older. By 2035 this will be 30 per cent; making Thailand a super-aged society (Source: Department of Older Persons , 2016).

According to the Kasikorn Thai Report 2016 on Thailand’s Silver Economy, Thailand has 7.1 million elderly people (age 65+), the second highest as a proportion of population in ASEAN. This is driving an estimated 3 per cent annual growth in the population (age 70+) who will need elderly care products and services.

The market for international elderly care in Thailand is growing rapidly at approximately 20 per cent growth driven by the elderly from countries i.e Middle East, Japan, US and Europe retiring or seeking long stay care in Thailand.

With this rapidly aging society and international visitors and residents, Thailand offers high potential for elderly care business opportunities including within nursing homes, in-home care services, care worker training and home medical equipment.

Opportunities

The main opportunities in the sector for Australian suppliers are for technologies, products or services which support Thailand’s growing medical tourism, digital health transformation and aging population care needs.

These include:

  • International-standard medical devices, products and services to healthcare facilities which cater for international medical tourists
  • Integrated Hospital Information Systems (HIS)
  • Consultancy in managing retirement living facilities
  • Niche products targeting day-to-day life of the Thai and foreign elderly such as health and dietary supplements, F&B, assisted living (home) furniture, e-health etc
  • Education and training for hospital administrators in facilities management, health informatics and other programs to up skill healthcare practitioners.

Competitive environment

Thailand continues to be dependent on imported products, with approximately 87 per cent of medical device equipment and accessories originating from other countries.

The healthcare sector is competitive and while demanding international quality health and medical supplies, is also very price and value conscious. The Thai Board of Investment (BOI) will promote the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and medical devices to strengthen competitiveness in this industry (Source: BOI’s Thailand Investment review, April 2017).

Japan is developing a strong relationship with the sector. In January 2016 the Thai Ministry of Public Health and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on “The Partnership Project for Global Health and Universal Health Coverage”. Participating in the MoU is the National Health Security Office. Thailand and Japan have formed a close relationship at a high level with the endorsement of the Prime Minister’s Office. As part of government-to-government collaboration, JICA has been providing training to Thai policy makers and healthcare practitioners, particularly in area of elderly care.

Australian digital health capabilities are mostly new to the Thai health sector. Most facilities rely on systems by US companies. A small number of Australian companies have a presence in the market.

Marketing your products and services

Market entry

Companies wishing to export medical device equipment into Thailand must meet stringent requirements controlled by the Medical Devices Control Division of the Food and Drug Administration within the Ministry of Public Health.

Medical devices are categorized into three levels: general control, pre-marketing notification, and pre-marketing approval.

  • Producers, importers or distributors of general control (or category I) devices do not need to have a license, although all medical devices sold in Thailand require labeling with Thai text. This category includes items such as surgical gloves and syringes
  • Class II items, such as HIV test kits and rehabilitation devices, are required to submit information on the product to the FDA and must have a certificate of free sale in the country of manufacture
  • Importers of category III devices must register with the FDA and have a license for production, import or sale of the item
  • Thailand’s FDA recognizes several foreign standards, including the USFDA (US Food and Drug Administration), CE Mark (Europe) and the PAB (Pharmaceutical Affairs Bureau of Japan). FDA monitoring does not stop with import criteria, but extends into post marketing control to ensure that such devices comply with medical device standards.

To be successful in the market:

  • Appoint a local agent or partner to manage issues with regards to regulations, government procedures, local business practices and marketing
  • Refer to your success in other markets, especially in Asia
  • Visit the market regularly for in-person meetings with your local agent, partner and customers. Developing a relationship is important in Thai business practice.

Links and industry contacts

FTA Portal
Food and Drug Administration
Ministry of Digital Economy and Society
Ministry of Public Health
National Health Security Office
Tourism Authority of Thailand – Health and wellness
Thai Health Promotion Foundation

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