Bringing more care to patients by “Tuk-Tuk”
Our Mission Leapfrog teams in Thailand made rapid progress in pulling together a diverse group of local collaborators by connecting with community leaders, hospitals, policy makers and technology partners. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic taking priority for healthcare resources, we shifted our focus to two provinces – Pattani and Yala – and identified smaller-scale experiments where we could immediately address COVID-19 needs while also providing benefits and learnings that can be applied to the core Leapfrog Ambition.
Pattani and Yala are located in the southern region of Thailand. Based on their locations and healthcare infrastructures, the level of preparedness and resources to manage COVID cases were particularly low. There is a limited amount of testing supplies and capabilities for rapid testing and no mechanism for actively identifying positive cases to help control the virus from spreading.
As cases increased, there were not enough hospital beds to manage acute patients and difficulties in getting care to patients who preferred isolating at home instead of in community hospitals. Even with the availability of vaccines, the reluctance toward certain vaccines provided a barrier to having vaccines be a means to quell the spread. There was a similar reluctance toward vaccines and limitations in testing resources in Yala, but they were facing an overflow of hospitalized patients as residents preferred community hospitals over home isolation.
By loading a fleet of local, open-air vehicles called “tuk tuks” with COVID tests, the Mission Leapfrog team were able to administer tests to 4,000 people and immediately isolate and provide care to positive cases.
In Southern Thailand, more than one out of four patients travel to a different city for cancer treatment and wait more than four hours at the hospital to receive treatment. Many require caregivers to travel with them, adding further burden to their families. At the start of the pandemic, 20 percent of patients stopped treatment and 14 percent of patients delayed or were unable to make their treatment appointments. Cancer patients who have a compromised immune system not only have to worry about their disease spreading or returning without treatment, they also have a higher risk of contracting COVID, especially with 80 percent of households with more than two people.
The success of the tuk-tuk delivered care helped build trust with policy and network partners in this region of Thailand, which opened doors for potential support for the broader Mission Leapfrog experiment around cancer. It also raised important questions that could be considered in bringing more care to cancer patients. With the availability of breast cancer medicines that can be taken at home, is there an opportunity to use the tuk-tuks to deliver treatments instead of requiring patients to travel to hospitals? Is telemedicine an option to monitor patients or provide consultations? Can preventative measures such as screenings or tests also be delivered to patients directly? Could this be applied to different disease areas such as diabetes?
Insights from these experiments could help set a foundation for a more sustainable healthcare ecosystem in areas like Pattani and Yala and increase access to care for the communities across Thailand.
Keep watching this space for more.
Experts in Thailand
The implementation of the Universal Healthcare law in 2019 accelerated the healthcare reform in the country. With its implementation, key opportunities and challenges were identified in revitalizing the healthcare system. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light additional gaps as more healthcare resources were shifted to address COVID cases. While Universal Health Care aims to achieve equitable access to quality and affordable health care services for all Filipinos, access to basic primary healthcare services in remote communities remains to be a challenge.Read more