Continuing advances the key for healthcare

February 26, 2021 | 08:00
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The healthcare sector is proving attractive despite COVID-19 as multinationals expand their footprint. Torben Minko, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam’s (EuroCham) Medical Devices and Diagnostics Sector Committee, talked to VIR’s Minh Anh about the 2020 overview and the trends ahead. 
1532 p12 continuing advances the key for healthcare
Torben Minko, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam’s (EuroCham) Medical Devices and Diagnostics Sector Committee

Healthcare is among the sectors said to be less impacted by the global health crisis in 2020. How did members of EuroCham’s Medical Devices and Diagnostics Sector Committee (MDDSC) play during the year?

Expectations for 2020 were high. However, in a world where normal business operations have been altered because of COVID-19, growth in the entire global economy is under threat. This affects medical device companies in the same way, globally and in Vietnam.

We highly value all proactive, transparent, and effective efforts made by the government in the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic in Vietnam. The actions have been successful and recognised internationally.

Since the first outbreak in Vietnam, MDDSC members have ensured a stable supply and import of sustainable, innovative and high-quality healthcare products to meet the demands of effectively preventing and fighting against the pandemic as well as treatment activities.

At that critical moment, we made a practical contribution, donating test kits to detect COVID-19 worth $25,000 to support the government.

We understand that medical device and diagnostic sectors are considered systemically important for the country’s healthcare infrastructure. In the coming time, those efforts will be continued and enhanced even further.

Domestic and foreign-invested enterprises here have looked into new business models to stand firm and develop. Have you seen any similar moves among MDDSC member companies?

Vietnam’s healthcare infrastructure has developed rapidly in recent years, thanks to the significant efforts of the Vietnamese authorities to improve public infrastructure across the country and to open the market to private healthcare providers.

The related double-digit growth of the medical devices and diagnostics market has stimulated multinational corporations to better serve the market through investments in a solid local network of partners.

This has involved the set-up of representative offices or, very often, the creation of local branches employing and training highly-qualified Vietnamese experts. It has also created opportunities for some of the multinationals to establish local production to serve the market with high-quality healthcare products.

The Vietnamese government, especially the Ministry of Health, has made a number of legal changes in a move to further facilitate business activities. Are they yet good enough for EuroCham members, and what other changes should Vietnam focus on in this regard?

Continuous improvements in regulations are the key to access innovations for the healthcare community, as well as an increase in pre-sales and post-sales service levels to healthcare providers. Decrees on medical device management, which have been largely aligned to international standards, are only some examples and significant milestones for the improvement of the regulatory landscape.

Consistent implementation will foster a more efficient and quality-oriented supply of medical devices and diagnostics solutions in Vietnam for the benefit of patients. A number of issues still need to be addressed in order to stay on the path to a state-of-the-art healthcare system, giving efficient access to innovative and high-quality healthcare to all citizens. We will continue working with regulators on improving the regulatory and legal framework. Our four cornerstones for 2021 will be digital transformation; remote care access for patients and looking at infrastructure, reimbursement, and capability building; policy framework for value-based procurement to provide top access to high-quality medical devices; and training for healthcare providers and professionals.

The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement has been in effect for around six months. Have you seen any movements among MDDSC members to tap into its benefits, and what other investment activity trends do you foresee?

We welcome the opportunities created by the agreement. It comes with further improvements of regulatory standards, exchanging information on customs requirements, investing in the modernisation of customs procedures, and ensuring transparency. New market access opportunities will be created to become long-term partners across Vietnam. Our mission is to engage with governments, regulators, healthcare providers, and many others in order to advocate good practice, promote high industry standards, and help develop policies which will shape the future of healthcare in Vietnam. This will enable timely access to sustainable, innovative, and high-quality healthcare for all.

The MDDSC, which consists of 26 global groups responsible for the majority of the medical device and diagnostic market, is happy to work with respective departments for the benefit of Vietnamese patients.

By Minh Anh

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