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  • Lawrence Ng

Thailand to Compete with Singapore, Japan, in Medical Tourism by Offering Less Invasive and Cheaper Robotic Surgery

Updated: Jun 24

Thailand intends to compete with top-ranked medical tourism destinations such as Singapore, Japan, and India by investing in cutting-edge technologies. Bangkok Hospital is following in the path of competing hospitals such as Singapore's Raffles Hospital and Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital by investing in robotic surgical systems, including the da Vinci Xi, as part of its quest to become Southeast Asia's robotic surgery powerhouse. The institution intends to make modern surgical treatments more affordable throughout the region.

Dr Ekkit presenting at the launch of Bangkok Surgical Centre
Dr. Ekkit Surakarn, Deputy Hospital Director of Bangkok Hospital

"We are dedicated to addressing the unique healthcare challenges faced by Southeast Asia, including the growing burden of cancers, an aging population, and disparities in access to quality care," said Dr. Ekkit Surakarn, Deputy Hospital Director of Bangkok Hospital. "Our robot-assisted surgery program is centered around delivering tangible benefits and value to our patients, while actively engaging with insurance providers to expand coverage for these advanced treatments". The Hospital has committed more than 200 million baht in a new robotic surgery centre, which includes numerous operating rooms and cutting-edge robotic platforms like as the da Vinci Xi Surgical System, and has already performed 200 robot-assisted procedures.

Surgeons operating using the Da Vinci Xi
Surgeons operating using the Da Vinci Xi

The da Vinci Xi Surgical System enhances surgical precision and dexterity, which benefits a variety of medical professions. This includes thoracic diseases (lung cancer, thymus gland disease), urological diseases (prostate and kidney cancers), abdominal and hepato-pancreato-biliary diseases (hernias, gallstones, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, gallbladder cancer), and gynaecological diseases (uterine fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian mass, uterine cancer). This resulted in improved patient outcomes, including reduced blood loss, faster recovery, lower infection risk, and fewer unplanned readmissions.

Dr. Padungkiat, Dr. Tanet, Dr. Thun & Dr. Yingchi (Left to Right)
Dr. Padungkiat, Dr. Tanet, Dr. Thun & Dr. Yingchi (Left to Right)

Doctors at Bangkok Hospital report that robotic surgery allows them to more easily access certain areas of the body, such as the center of the chest and the pelvis. This is because the robotic arms have wrists that bend and rotate like a human wrist. The robotic system also provides surgeons with a more magnified and stable image, which improves surgical precision. Patients who undergo robotic surgery experience shorter hospital stays, less pain, and faster recovery times.

Back to School for Surgeons

Robotic Surgery in Bangkok Hospital
Robotic Surgery in Bangkok Hospital

According to the doctors from Bangkok Hospital, the robotics system is not very intuitive for first-time users. To become a qualified robotic surgeon, trainees must exhibit 100% proficiency in all areas and undergo extensive training, including practical training at a robotic surgical centre. To ensure patient safety, the hospital has strong patient safety protocols in place, so even when the surgeons are qualified, they will require extra training and supervision before performing robotic surgery independently. Most surgeons become comfortable after a few surgeries, and the benefits of shorter operating times and lower complication rates outweigh the rigorous training and traditional open surgery.

The hospital intends to use robotic surgery to cover new specialties, such as ear-nose-throat surgery, during the next five years. It also concentrates on training and education to evolve into a recognised robotic surgery centre of excellence and a regional skill development centre. "We remain dedicated to advancing the frontiers of robotic surgery and expanding its benefits to patients across Asia," says Dr. Ekkit Surakarn.

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