Vietnamese are making their way in the digitally advanced Healthcare system faster than most Asian countries. Vietnam is experiencing the era of “Golden Age” with many digital enablers that are setting the best ground for new and innovative technology advancements especially in the healthcare sector. Since, there has been a gap in the doctor to patient ratio; Vietnamese government is expecting to bridge it with tech solutions such as e-Pharmacy, Online Consultation, Appointment Booking and Health IT solutions. Healthcare technologies have accelerated their growth with the advent of COVID-19. Strict lockdown regulations made it is easy for most players to make a mark in the industry.
In conversation with Huynh Phuoc Tho Alain-Project Development Manager, eDoctor– Health Tech segment: E- Pharmacy, Online Consultation and Appointment Booking, we attempted to seek their opinions and understand their side of story to ‘Health Tech Market in Vietnam’. Here are some excerpts of the interview:
What are the Growth factors of Health Tech Market in Vietnam?
Digital Transformation is something that we can’t escape. Government is also pushing the technology advancements in Vietnam, particularly for Healthcare sector. We have been in the market for 6 years and things have changed a lot. Since last one year, people talk a lot about telemedicine, capacity to deliver healthcare and bringing new models in the delivery of healthcare services.
Vietnam Health Tech is moving and it has seen a lot of start-ups as well with different models and different areas of focus particularly telemedicine, connecting doctors and patients.
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What are the challenges in the Health Tech industry?
Telemedicine segment suffers a lot, since there is no proper framework and regulation by the government. Due to this many health institutions, medical centres, hospitals and universities hesitated to adopt the telemedicine and bring it in practice.
It became very difficult to sell the idea and key process of telemedicine initially because it is not easy to get doctors on board since they are much occupied and not comfortable with technological advancements.
Shortage of doctor comes secondary but it is more about the willingness to adapt to the change. It is difficult for the doctors to diagnose the patients virtually with limited information.
The major challenge is that in Vietnam it is not allowed to provide e-prescriptions after virtual consultation, which makes the idea of consultation less useful for the patients.
Is there any regulation that will affect the health tech market to grow?
Yes, since the government is working hard to integrate technological solutions to deliver better healthcare facilities, we are expecting to see the change in the regulations for Telemedicine very soon, where doctors will be allowed to prescribe e-prescriptions.
Telemedicine in Vietnam is currently more about doctors connecting to doctors in two separate hospitals in case of emergencies and it is not very much directed to patients.
We need correct models to directly reach the patients.
What was the impact of COVID-19?
COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation. Government realised the importance of digital healthcare. MOH approved a plan for digital transformation that includes the implementation of electronic health records, cashless payment portals, etc.
There has not been a big change as we expected it to be. There has been a constant up and down in the number of users for telemedicine. There were more queries about the home healthcare, appointment booking and e-pharmacies.
How is eDoctor model different from others?
eDoctor is bringing a one click solution for the patients. eDoctor allows you to register free of cost. It allows the patients to either leave a query or use chat box option to connect to the doctor. You can also audio or video call the doctor for consultation with the minimal fee charge. There is no difference in the consultation fee for a specialised or a general doctor.
For an authentic delivery of drugs, we connect to the top pharmacy chains since they have many stores across the country resulting in expansion of our reach as well in the market.
How is e-pharmacy market doing in Vietnam?
It is not a very attractive market in terms of revenue. Most orders that we get are from the southern region since our retail partners have more stores in the southern area.
When a patient visits a hospital or clinic and get a prescription, they prefer buying medicines from the hospital stores. Also Vietnam has no scarcity of the drug stores.
For e-pharmacy to boom, the government should allow e-prescriptions so that the patient can have the ease of buying medicines right after virtual consultation.
How is the competition in Vietnam Health Tech Market?
The competition is very less because we all differ in our business model. Most retail players are shifting to the online portals which will give tough competition in future.
What is the future of Vietnam Health Tech Market?
We expect the market to grow substantially that is why we are investing a lot in this segment. We are positive about the growth of the market. We are expecting to see changes in the framework of telemedicine. There will be clarity in terms of what a doctor can do and cannot do in the online consultation. What will be a doctor’s responsibility while examining a patient and what areas can be covered by the specialists.
We expect the market to grow 100-200% annually because the room is too empty and its potential is big enough to grow. We can say eDoctor will grow by 20-25% in the coming years.
Verbatim: “We are hopeful for a behavioral change where people are ready to accept and adopt the digital technologies”.
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Ankur Gupta, Head Marketing & Communications