From diapers to droids: Thai healthcare companies focus on demand for elderly

In the past few years, Thailand has become one of the leading economies in Sutheast Asia. Its development has clearly outpaced the Kingdom’s neighbours , according to data from the World Bank. However, this surge does come with a price: living and education costs are also rising. It’s the natural way of things. Nowadays, costs are increasing in the healthcare sector and more Thais are willing to increase their spending to provide welfare and better conditions to those who are in need. Among them, the elderly.

Demographics show that by the end of this year, close to 15 percent of Thai citizen will pass beyond the retirement age of 60. In the following years, that percentage will reach even higher numbers, with 20% estimated by the year 2020.

These statistics are encouraging local companies to invest more and more in healthcare products, from robots to take care, entertain and monitor the elderly to even diapers for adults.

Chalermpon Punnotok, CEO of CT Asia Robotics gives a hand to a robot during an interview with Reuters in Bangkok, Thailand July 5, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

One of these companies, Bangkok-based CT Asia Robotics, has developed a care robot which can not only keep track of medication and video-phone relatives, but can also exercise with the elderly and even entertain them with its karaoke skills.

“Doctors and nurses have responded positively to Dinsow because it helps them monitor patients,” said Chief Executive Chalermpon Punnotok of CT Asia Robotics.

In just a couple of months, the company has got 1,000 orders from Thailand and Japan for the 85,000 baht ($2,445) droid. The price is not too high for rich Thais, and even medium class citizen are investing more money in healthcare products. According to government estimates, families in Thailand spend almost a third of their income on caring for elderly relatives, and KGI Securities estimates healthcare spending will be as high as 7 percent of GDP in the next 10 years, up from 4.5 percent in 2015.

Investors focus not only on high-tech healthcare products, but on traditional ones too. Diaper company DSG International Thailand PCL says its sales of adult diapers have grown 30 percent this year. An opportunity for growth is envisioned by medical equipment supplier Samaphan Health, which sells mattresses to prevent bed sores as well as respiratory products to aid sleep.

The growing healthcare industry is a good sign for companies who have decided to invest in this area, and Thailand has already a $4 billion medicine and healthcare industry. But the numbers show another growth will follow: the need for doctors, nurses and care givers, nursing homes and customized private housing.

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