Thailand’s ‘global medical hub’ dream gets reality check from new health index

By The Nation

Thailand needs to do more work if it wants to become a regional leader in personalised healthcare, according to a new study.

The Asia-Pacific Personalised Health Index is a data-driven policy tool created by multinational healthcare giant Roche to measure the readiness of health systems to adopt personalised healthcare – “enabling the right care to be tailored to the right person at the right time”.

The index, which is part of Roche’s FutureProofing Healthcare initiative led by 15 experts across Asia-Pacific, should be of interest to policymakers currently working to transform Thailand into a global medical hub.

Topping the index ranking of 11 countries is Singapore’s health system, which scored highest on 27 indicators of personalised health. Thailand was ranked 7th, ahead of Malaysia, China, India and Indonesia. The index also covers Australia, South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand.

The company said it uses public data supplemented with input from health authorities to offer a picture of local, national, and regional strengths and needs. The aim, said Roche, was to enable data-driven decision-making for future health systems that are fit for purpose.

Singapore scored top for its high levels of digital maturity, comprehensive national strategies, strong digital infrastructure and innovation capacity. Taiwan (2nd), Japan (3rd) and Australia (4th) also performed well in overall readiness, said Roche. However, Thailand and other lower-scoring territories faced challenges of urban-rural disparities and building digital infrastructure, said the company.

“Personalised healthcare has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people across Asia-Pacific,” said Jeremy Lim, director of Global Health and associate prof at the National University of Singapore, who helped develop the index. Hailing the creation of digital health solutions like tele-medicine during the Covid-19 crisis, he said more work was needed across the region to realise these benefits.

“The Personalised Health Index builds a clearer picture of the current readiness of health systems and enables countries to build on their strengths, identify key areas of opportunity for improvement and identify best practice from other countries on individual measures. It helps jump start conversations about what action is needed today to shape resilient, personalised and sustainable health systems that work better for future generations,” said Lim.