Healthcare sector in Thailand
The total healthcare market in 2012 is expected to reach £8.7bn while the pharmaceutical market forecast is £2.7bn and £620m for the medical devices market. Although Thailand produces some medical devices for domestic consumption, the country imports 70% of medical devices from overseas
Due to increasing demand from international and local patients, Thailand offers world-class medical infrastructure and the highest possible quality of care at a fraction of the cost of similar procedures in developed countries. The Thai government also invested £61m in promoting Thailand as a medical hub with an aim to generate revenue of £8.1bn in 2014.
Thailand offers exciting business opportunities to companies prepared to take a serious interest in this dynamic market. Over a number of years, Thailand, which has a population of 69 million, has managed to transform its economy from one that was primarily agriculture-based, to one of the most diverse in the region.
Thailand is designated one of UKTI’s High Growth Markets and takes a welcoming approach to UK companies. Doing business with UK companies is easy.
Key and emerging opportunities for UK healthcare companies in Thailand include:
Medical Equipment & Devices
Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for medical tourism, with over 1,000 public hospitals and 400 private hospitals operating at international standards. The growing medical tourism market has long played an important role in the sector with 10-20% annual growth.
Due to the increasing demand in healthcare treatment from both overseas and domestic patients, Thai healthcare facilities continue to expand. We are also witnessing a new trend of mergers between private hospitals. Additionally, public hospitals have started to open private facilities to offer patients alternatives to private sector hospitals and to provide a critical source of revenue that can be reinvested in public facilities. Therefore, both private and public hospitals continue to upgrade their facilities including medical machinery and devices to meet an increasing demand. Public hospitals remain the major consumers accounting for 60% of medical device purchases.
As the Thai government continues to promote the country as the medical hub of Asia, private and public hospitals are focusing on improving their standard of services as well as upgrading their facilities. One of the essential tools to attract foreign patients is to obtain an internationally recognised hospital accreditation. As a result, Joint Commission International (JCI) has benefited from the large private hospital’s strategy of improving their services to international standards. However, some private hospitals wish to seek other options which allow more flexibility in the implementation process.
The demand for specialised treatment in Thailand has increased, not only due to the number of foreign patients but also because of the health-conscious consumers in Thailand. When the public and private hospitals plan a facility expansion, they tend to focus in specific medical treatment i.e. heart hospital, cancer hospital etc have been established.
According to a death certificates analysis, the major and rising causes of death among Thai citizens are non-communicable diseases, accidents, and HIV/AIDS. The impact of an ageing population opens up numerous opportunities. Due to the increasing aging population, we also see an increasing number of elderly care facilities developed by both the public and private sector. The Thai government is aware of the aging society and provides support for elderly living. The government has also initiated a number of R&D projects in assistive technology and innovation to develop devices and other products to support both the elderly and disabled. The projects are carried out by National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) who also collaborate with international organisations on new technology in these areas.
Accident & Emergency
Emergency response treatment has increasingly become a priority in Thailand as the country experienced a number of natural disasters and political unrest in the past few years. The National Institute of Emergency Medical Service aims to develop international standards of emergency medical system and has played a lead role in previous natural disasters in the region. There are more opportunities arising in this area including training and consultancy as well as demand for specialist equipment.
Thailand has followed a global trend of increasing numbers of smart phone and tablet computers. There have been few e-health projects using handheld device in healthcare data collection, health condition monitoring and etc in the past few years. With 3G commercial service due to be available from Q1 2013, local hospitals are aware of benefits in e-health which will allow them to provide service in remote area. The Thai government has supported Smart Health project initiated by the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) with a focus on 3 areas; National Health Information System, Tele-medicine, and Smart Home for Independent Living.
Getting into the market
When entering the Thai market it can be an advantage to team up with local distributors or large international distributors. These distributors are already established and know the market, the rules and regulations. The hospitals purchasers rely to a great extend on their suppliers to up-date them with information on new equipment, which is another advantage by choosing an already established supplier. As it is very hard to compete on price with medical equipment in Thailand, the competing factor is diversity and to differentiate on a wide variety of products, hence the entry barriers for new products are not high.
Medical devices imported into Thailand are subject to registration with the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Presently, there are 3 levels of registration. 90% of all medical devices fall under Level 1, which requires a Free Sales Certificate issued by the Health Authorities (or a related government office body) in the country of origin of the product. Your local distributor will process a FDA license application while UK company provides supporting document on that specific device.
Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).
To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country – or contact your local international trade team.
Nipapat Hamilton, British Embassy Bangkok. Tel: +66 (0) 2 305 8358 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nathatai Rojanamitr, British Embassy Bangkok. Tel: +66 (0)2 305 8358 or email: email@example.com
UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.
Medical Fair Thailand 2013
Date: 12-14 September 2013