Jan 07, 2021 / 06:44

Vietnam hospitals expected to accelerate digitalization process

Vietnam is one of the first countries to apply electronic medical declarations, Bluezone contact tracing application and Covid-19 safety maps.

Vietnam's medical systems will see greater integration of technology as a means to address shortcomings in healthcare access and enhance sector efficiency, according to Fitch Solutions, a subsidiary of Fitch Group.

 Center for TeleHealth at Hanoi Medical University Hospital. 

During the country’s fight against Covid-19, IT has contributed greatly to help Vietnam contain the pandemic.

“Vietnam is also one of the first countries to apply electronic medical declarations, Bluezone contact tracing application and Covid-19 safety maps,” noted Fitch Solutions.

The country also established Telehealth, a network aimed to connect around 14,000 health facilities nationwide and link them with other countries in the medical field, part of the nation’s digital transformation program towards 2025, with a vision to 2030.

The network will allow people nationwide to access medical services, organize consultations among doctors from different level hospitals remotely, thus reducing patient congestion at central hospitals.

By late September 2020, the network had connected 1,000 medical examination and treatment facilities with nearly 30 key hospitals in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. In late November 2020, it required all hospitals in the country to connect to the network for treatment, practice sharing, and learning.

Fitch Solutions, however, noted Vietnam’s burgeoning health tech sector is still in its infancy, attracting significantly less investment.

“To help the health tech sector sustain the momentum post-pandemic, companies not only have to appeal to investors and consumers but they also have to be integrated with Vietnam’s national health framework. The government will have to play a bigger role in encouraging collaboration between industry players and other stakeholders, provide incentives, and formulate clear policies,” it suggested. 

Last June, the Ministry of Health approved a five-year project on remote medical examination and treatment involving 24 hospitals. Apps and medical services will be developed to manage files and knowledge systems, as well as helping patients find medical information, make their appointments, and consult doctors.

“These measures will accelerate the digitalization across Vietnam’s hospital network, which is currently fragmented and mainly implemented in central level public hospitals and private hospitals in major cities,” stated Fitch Solutions.

Barriers remain for digital adoption

A number of important barriers still hinder digital adoption in Vietnamese hospitals, both public and private. At present, healthcare professionals and patients are reluctant to use digital-based systems due to unfamiliarity with these tools and technological constraints at home.

Meanwhile, unclear and complicated administrative processes slow digital adoption, while the output of data is not standardized across hospitals, and data security remains a concern for healthcare providers, weakening inter-hospital integration.

The start-up sector in Vietnam, albeit small in size compared to that of other Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore or Indonesia, is also actively contributing to the digitalization of healthcare.

Like pharmaceuticals and medical devices, health tech start-ups operate in a highly regulated sector where there are still many uncertainties in the regulatory landscape.

The Government will have to play a bigger role in encouraging collaboration between industry players and other stakeholders, provide incentives, and formulate clear policies, stated Fitch Solutions.

“Thus, though there is still a lot of room for the health tech sector to grow, the digital transformation of healthcare in Vietnam is already well underway,” it concluded.