Making the physical personal

When you own a car, you generally get a professional to give it a periodic check once you’ve clocked a certain mileage. But do you do the same for your body?

Praram 9 Hospital, with a new programme called 9-Life, hope to encourage people to do just that. What they’re offering, however, is not your average annual checkup.

It’s a checkup tailor-made for each individual, taking into account that person’s unique background and lifestyle. After all, says Lauranee Sirikasem, senior marketing and communications manager, you don’t give a 4WD and a Benz the same sort of service. “I work in marketing. You’re a reporter,” she says. “We probably live very different lives. Why should a doctor give us each the same checkup?”

Dr Termsak Kusonruksa, executive director at Praram 9 Hospital describes the two-month-old 9-Life as being an effective and efficient way of handling middle-aged patients’ annual checkups. “There used to be a fixed menu of packages doctors followed – if you were 40, 50, or 60, say, you took a set of tests no matter who you were,” Dr Termsak says. “But we [doctors at Praram 9] found that over the years, there were a good number of cases where the standard checkup didn’t screen out a lethal disease – for instance, a cancer could go undetected.”

9-Life is a result of the doctors banding together to develop a way of ensuring such serious slips halted.

The programme involves answering a series of 45 questions on a computer, a process that takes around 15 minutes. The questions relate to a patient’s medical history, family history, lifestyle and general background. Based on the answers, the computer will draw on Thai statistics and other data – such as American Cancer Society recommended guidelines — to decide what diseases someone of that patient’s profile is most at risk of developing.

The computer will then recommend specific tests to be taken. A printed sheet will list what you need to have – and how much it costs. The patient will see an internist to discuss the initial computer-test results and any other concerns, and then where required, specialists will administer your tests and discuss in detail any conditions you might have. It’s frequently possible to have all your tests and get the results in one day. The system will alert hospital staff to remind you when it’s time for your next check-up, too.

The starting price is Bt1,200 — but that’s for someone who’s young and in a low-risk group. I’m 29, not particularly fit and have a family history of several diseases. The computer recommended around 15 tests, at a cost of Bt3,080.

It might seem expensive, but when you look at what the early detection of diseases saves you long-term, avoiding checkups actually becomes a false economy, says Dr Termsak. “In maintaining good health, we have to make a clever investment. Patients will know early about their risks, and have a chance to learn how to modify their behaviour in order to prevent diseasess – and save a lot of money.”

Dr Termsak says that the system behind 9-Life is quite simple. “It’s about using ideas and knowledge, and improving the working system, rather than about money. We have to work smarter with what we have.” The IT system that was implemented, and the increased capacity of the IT system, probably cost less than a million baht.

Yet the system is quite powerful. Your average GP might not be aware that people with a southern Chinese ethnicity are statistically more likely to develop cancer of the nasal pharynx – but the 9-Life system will immediately alert doctors when a patient of this background attends a checkup. Or your regular doctor may have scrawled in his or her notes somewhere (we all know doctors are famous for bad handwriting!) that you have a history of diabetes in your family – but might overlook this when you pop in for a quick checkup.

So what age should you get yourself into 9-Life? Dr Termsak suggests that if you’re in your 20s and 30s, and are generally healthy, there’s no need to see a doctor annually unless you have a particular family history that you should be concerned about. Once you hit your 40s, the risk of developing a serious disease rises, and the risk rises further as you age. Your chances of maintaining excellent health, however, are optimised with regular checkups – especially when they’re tailor-made to fit who you are.

When you think of 9-Life, think of cats, says marketing and communications manager Lauranee. “Cats have nine lives. They have longevity,” she says. 9-Life could be your key to a long and healthy life.

9-Life Hotline: 02 248 8020. Services available from 7am to 3pm daily.

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