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Thailand’s Health Ministry embraces virtualisation in push towards e-Health

Thailand’s Health Ministry is using virtualisation technology from VMware to provide better healthcare for citizens

Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) is centralising its IT system through virtualisation to consolidate its health IT infrastructure and provide more accessible and affordable healthcare for its citizens.

With more than 10,000 health IT units across Thailand’s 76 provinces, uniting health IT infrastructures will enable the quick exchange of information between MoPH, which is responsible for the oversight of public health in the country, and individual units located across the nation.

This is part of MoPH’s eHealth strategy to transform the delivery of healthcare services in Thailand, which the agency says is closely aligned to that of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It also supports the Thai government’s overall vision for Digital Thailand, which promotes the use of digital technology to create opportunities for economic growth and improve the delivery of government services for its people.

The new infrastructure aims to help clinicians and administrators to optimise workflows, better manage and analyse patient data, and it enables mobile access.

“Virtualisation and business mobility systems allow the industry – hospitals and professionals – to deliver always-on healthcare for Thailand,” said Polawat Witoolkollachit, director of information and communication technology centre, office of the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Public Health.

MoPH deployed two VMware virtualisation platforms, vSphere and VMware Horizon.

It has simplifed its datacentre operations by virtualising and consolidating its servers and applications using Vmware’s vSphere.

The consolidation of information on virtual servers has improved co-ordination between central IT administrators and those at the provincial level, allowing MoPH to more accurately track, manage and deliver IT services and resources, resulting in cost savings and more efficient resource allocation.

To virtualise the desktop infrastructure and allow users access to information from any location, the ministry adopted VMware Horizon. A virtual desktop infrastructure can reduce the time spent delivering IT support, address administrative overload, and increase user efficiency and satisfaction.

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According to Ashwin Moduga, research manager at IDC Health Insights Asia-Pacific, this is a logical progression in a public health system’s evolution.

Virtualisation can greatly increase mobility and the number of touchpoints with patients, and is an important move as it helps the agency build a more efficient national health system, said Moduga.

“Thailand’s Public Health System grapples to catch up to provide health services to its 60 million population. With traditional health delivery processes, the biggest challenge has been in terms of patient access and the possibly high number of resources required to maintain quality care,” said Moduga.

“A strong virtualisation drive can greatly improve the possibilities of increasing the physician/patient interactions on a large scale at a population level.”

A national health system with a centrally governed IT system allows for further synergies in terms of patient data repositories and epidemiology statistics, said Moduga.

However, the adoption of virtualisation has been comparatively slow in Southeast Asia nations, unlike the US and Europe where it is more popularly embraced.

Going forward, there is a perception challenge, said Moduga. “A server going down or connectivity loss, sometimes common in virtualisation, cannot be allowed to come in the way of a care delivery process. Suppliers and administrations will need to show the continuity plan for such scenarios to manage change resistance.”

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