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The rapid spread of Covid-19 has placed the healthcare system in Thailand under severe pressure. Following the outbreak of the pandemic, new startups focusing on telemedicine have sprung up to take on the challenge of innovating the way healthcare services can be provided to patients. In general, telemedicine aims to assist healthcare professionals in providing services or consultations, including assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and consultation, to patients via “remote technology”, a system providing remote medical facility services i.e. real-time interactive communications, or audio/video conferencing as a method to minimize in-patient visits.
In order to protect and ensure the safety of patients and set appropriate standards for telemedicine, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) issued the Notification regarding Standards of Service in respect of Medical Facilities via Telemedicine System B.E. 2564 (2021) (the “Telemedicine Notification”) on January 18, 2021, which came into force on February 2, 2021. Under the Telemedicine Notification, the licensee and manager of a medical facility business who wishes to operate a telemedicine service business is required to observe and adhere to the following seven criteria.
- Additional Service Offering – Add telemedicine service as an additional service to its services for health facilities business currently registered with the Department of Health Service Support, the MOPH
- Sufficient Manpower – Provide sufficient professional practitioners and staff to ensure that the original established medical site will not be affected
- Telecommunications and IT system – Provide a telecommunications service system and equipment to facilitate communication between service providers and recipients, and ensure the IT system is sufficiently secure enough to meet the IT security system standards
- Process – Provide registration details, medical records, treatment reports, examination and verification of telemedicine process at every step
- Compliance by professional practitioners – Control and supervise all professional practitioners at the medical facility to ensure they comply with the standards of care, and applicable laws and regulations related to professional practitioners
- Notify patients – Inform patients of treatment methods, service procedures, and consequences and/or risks from using telemedicine services
- Maintenance of Equipment – Ensure that the telecommunications service system and equipment are sufficiently maintained in order to mitigate any risks that may occur
Prior to this, the Thailand Medical Council (TMC) issued the Notification regarding the Guidelines in respect of Telemedicine or an Online Clinic No. 54/2563 on July 21, 2020 (the “TMC Notification”) to regulate professional medical practitioners. Under the TMC Notification, a professional practitioner is allowed to provide such telemedicine service only at the established medical site, and must strictly comply with the Professional Standards for Medical Practitioners B.E. 2555 (2012), as amended, and other notifications issued by the TMC. Both professional practitioners and patients must be aware of the limitations of communication technology. In addition, the service providers should be aware that the safety and security of the information system must be in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Act B.E. 2562 (2019) and the Electronic Transactions Act B.E. 2544 (2001), as amended.
We anticipate the number of patients using telemedicine services will increase due to the social distancing requirements caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as it is a suitable and effective alternative for service providers to communicate with patients. For more information about the relevant regulations or any other notifications relating to telemedicine services, please contact the authors or our team at Kudun and Partners.