Vietnam’s healthcare sector has reached an important milestone in its digital transformation with the recent launch of 1,000 healthcare facilities equipped with telehealth. With the vision to promote digital transformation in a decade, acting Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long writes about the sector’s future digital strategies towards better healthcare quality for all.
|Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long
In 2020, the healthcare sector has faced many difficulties due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The pandemic remains in serious development around the world, while Vietnam now controls the virus outbreak thanks to comprehensive, drastic, and effective measures, and solutions. This success has won locals’ confidence and been highly praised by international friends.
In addition, Vietnam has applied many models and methods in the prevention and fight against the global health crisis, making it a period to renovate and develop the sector – including telehealth, which aims to increase people’s access to high-quality healthcare services in a speedy manner.
In the wake of the benefits of telehealth, the Ministry of Health (MoH) in line with the prime minister’s directions has closely worked with the Ministry of Information and Communications, the Ministry of Defence, and Viettel Group on building and implementing the telehealth development scheme.
As a result, in just two months the scheme reached the milestone of 1,000 healthcare facilities nationwide being equipped with telehealth.
During development of the scheme, the key message has simply been to further increase healthcare quality. It helps local people access quality services at grassroots health facilities, increases professionalism and quality of healthcare services at these facilities, and narrows gaps between local and central-level units, thus easing overloads at central hospitals.
The MoH will continue to develop the Vietnamese healthcare network which gathers all health professionals nationwide and is the forum for them to share and exchange experience and lessons with an aim to improve the quality and professionalism to better serve people.
The MoH is asking all healthcare facilities, health professionals, and other staff across the country to make stronger efforts to effectively implement the scheme so as to gradually increase the quality of diagnosis and treatment at grassroots facilities.
To widely spread and sustainably develop the activities of the telehealth development scheme, the MoH will assess and learn lessons and then give directions to healthcare facilities nationwide to take action, while continuing to be active in working with relevant ministries and agencies on completion of legal frameworks, financial mechanisms, technical cataloguing, and technical guidance to successfully operate the scheme.
In the upcoming time, the sector will focus on a number of key tasks in its process of comprehensive renovation so as to prosperously implement Resolution No.20-NQ/TW enacted in 2017 on strengthening health protection, healthcare, and health promotion.
The MoH will continue to give priorities to the programmes and schemes including the application of IT in the healthcare sector, the strengthening of digital transformation, and more besides to build and develop a modern healthcare system towards further increasing healthcare quality.
Key contents of digital healthcare transformation for 2025, with vision towards 2030
Developing IT infrastructure
The sector will develop a national healthcare database centre, and the MoH’s Department of Information Technology will be the united collector of all information for the centre.
Promoting digital transformation
Electronic health records will be deployed for all people in line with Resolution 20, aiming to increase the coverage of electronic health records to 95 per cent of the country’s population.
Moreover, the sector will instigate a rise in medical station operations; apply AI and smart technologies in disease prevention, environmental protection, food safety, nutrition, and HIV/AIDS prevention; and develop applications to provide knowledge about treatment and general healthcare which connect to a digital Vietnamese knowledge system.
E-records in hospitals
To create a legal framework for digital transformation in hospitals, the MoH in 2018 issued Circular No.46/2018/TT-BYT governing electronic medical records. This circular regulates the building, use, and management of electronic medical records at health facilities.
To ensure feasibility, the MoH is building a roadmap for deployment of electronic medical records. By 2023, hospitals level I and higher (approximately 135) have to deploy e-medical records. After that, by 2030, the deployment will be compulsory at all hospitals nationwide.
The deployment of electronic medical records is an important breakthrough for the sector’s digital transformation, gradually applying and developing smart healthcare, thus taking initiatives in joining Industry 4.0.
The implementation of electronic medical administration will consist of applying IT in management and electronic operation, while limiting use of paperwork at the MoH, the departments of health, and other units in the sector.
This will enhance the development and deployment of online public services of the MoH, connecting them with the national one-stop system and one-stop ASEAN systems.