Vietnam is considered one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia as its GDP growth was 7.02% in 2019, the second highest in a decade behind 7.08% in 2018. As such, healthcare accessibility has been a priority, with the Government’s strong focus on increasing accessibility across higher-level and lower-level primary healthcare facilities, as part of their universal healthcare initiative, to be achieved in 2030. In addition, as a majority of health practitioners are mainly located in the main cities of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the timely emergence of new technology and digitisation solutions can help bridge the gap between the developed and more rural cities in Vietnam.
Covid-19 and its impact on the healthcare industry
When Covid-19 took place globally, the healthcare systems of the most developed countries were significantly impacted. The rapid increase in the number of patients within a short timespan has caused a serious risk in lack of equipment and manpower across hospitals. Therefore, it is more important than ever to change the traditional methods of managing the patient flow.
The epidemic had also hindered the constant updating of medical knowledge of doctors – while technologies are constantly being updated every day, live learning programs are forced to stop due to travel constraints, causing doctors to lag behind the pace of development in the industry.
As such, “the epidemic has caused a spike in medical demand, which is difficult to respond to in a traditional direct way. This has quickly promoted the application of technology in healthcare, which may have been difficult in the past. This is also an opportunity to clearly see the effectiveness and role of technology,” said Mr. Pham Hong Son, CEO of GE Vietnam and Country Manager of GE Healthcare Vietnam.
Drivers transforming patients’ health and health workers’ development
The most obvious benefits of digital technology are to improve the effectiveness of disease diagnosis, minimize human errors, increase accuracy and better manage the patient flow. A handheld portable X-ray device developed by GE Healthcare, for example, integrates artificial intelligence to alert hospital staff of a patient in critical condition such as a collapsed lung. This device is being applied in leading hospitals in Vietnam and shows up to 95% accuracy in diagnosis, which saves maximum time and ensures patient safety. Artificial intelligence can also be applied to the operational management of the imaging department, which reduces patient testing time by about 16%.
In addition, with modern technology, doctors can monitor the patient’s condition without face-to-face meetings. This makes sense in all circumstances, not only in the event of an epidemic or natural disaster when it is possible to minimize the risk of infection with infectious diseases, while helping to provide access to high-quality health services for people in remote areas where facilities are limited. In addition, remote monitoring also helps doctors support patients more often and promptly.
Many technologies have been harnessed to improve access to health services and are truly effective, especially in epidemic situations. For example, Tele-ICU is a remote consultation model that connects patients with the medical team through a command center. This technology allows patients in remote and distant places to be connected through an off-site command centre to a critical care team, and crucial health information is exchanged in real-time, audio, visual as well as electronic means – solving human resources limitations and aids in controlling of Covid-19 outbreaks.
According to data from Solidiance, Vietnam averages about 8.6 doctors per 10,000 people. However, as most health workers are concentrated in two major cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, online training programs are the solution to help balance expertise between routes.
In the second quarter of this year, GE Healthcare launched a series of online seminars on health issues in the COVID-19 epidemic and attracted more than 1,000 health workers. In August, GE Healthcare ASEAN also had a week to introduce the most advanced imaging technologies and solutions where the whole program was done on the online platform.
“Online courses are really convenient for doctors who can work at the clinic and can study to improve their qualifications. Thanks to online training like this, I not only absorbed useful knowledge with practice but also got to take the test to receive a Certificate of Continuous Training. I am very pleased with the learning experience and results and am ready to take the next online courses in the future”, said Specialist I Huynh Thuy Hoa of Careplus Polycrysal Clinic (Ho Chi Minh City) after participating in online training sessions co-organized by GE Healthcare.
As there are insurmountable uncertainties that tie in with the outcome of the pandemic, it is quite clear that life will not be the same post COVID-19. Individuals, industries and companies, therefore, must adopt to the new practices as part of the regular operations for the foreseeable future. Within healthcare, this new norm will mean better patient care outcomes with the adaptation of innovative solutions and digitization.