Innovative Telehealth “Doctor for everyone” demonstrates power of digital in promoting equal access to healthcare in Viet Nam
The impact of the "Doctor for Everyone" grassroots telehealth initiative in Viet Nam has been revealed through the responses of individuals surveyed at project sites.
This innovative software implementation has revolutionized healthcare access by empowering people to choose and schedule appointments with the right healthcare professionals at the most convenient times.
Individuals requiring medical examinations or treatments can obtain prompt care from their local commune health stations with consultations from doctors at higher-level facilities through seamless online connections facilitated by dedicated health workers. This approach not only reduces the financial burden of pursuing distant medical care but also enhances the capabilities of community-based health workers, fostering a more resilient healthcare system.
These extraordinary results have been recently presented at a workshop hosted by the Ministry of Health and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Viet Nam, highlighting the initiative's significant contributions to healthcare transformation.
At the workshop, Prof. Dr. Tran Van Thuan, Deputy Minister of Health, said, "The Ministry of Health will continue to coordinate with UNDP to mobilize resources to implement the health digital transformation program, complete the targets of the new rural and advanced rural programs under the management of the Ministry of Health towards managing people's health in a digital environment, and continuing to prioritize capacity-building activities for grassroots health care.
The "Doctor for Everyone" telehealth system was initially developed in 2020. Its implementation journey began with two installation phases: training, field testing, and refinement in Ha Giang, Bac Kan, and Lang Son provinces between 2021 and 2022. The current phase has targeted the grassroots healthcare system in five provinces: Thua Thien Hue, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Dak Lak, and Ca Mau, building upon the insights and lessons from the initial project.
"Doctor for Everyone" is a pivotal bridge, connecting healthcare workers at commune health stations with district-level and higher-level health services, fostering effective consultations and guidance. The program incorporates a secure video conferencing platform, enabling essential meetings between district health centers, hospitals, and commune health stations. Additionally, it provides a user-friendly smartphone application, empowering local communities, including ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, to access healthcare services with inclusivity at the forefront.
Since November 2022, the "Doctor for Everyone" software has been successfully implemented across 1,403 provincial, district, and commune health facilities in the five provinces, all seamlessly linked to the Data Centre of the Ministry of Health. The program has also established telehealth function rooms in 75 highly vulnerable communes, thoughtfully equipped with computers, webcams, and related equipment to ensure efficient telehealth services.
This initiative has gained strong support from healthcare professionals, with 4,900 staff members at provincial, district, and commune levels receiving comprehensive training to use the "Doctor for Everyone" program effectively. The impact has been equally impressive among community members, with 755,000 individuals creating accounts, leading to around 28,000 health appointment requests being processed through the system by June 2023.
One of the key highlights of the current project is its potential to deliver tangible improvements in health access and outcomes beyond the context of Covid-19. This sustainable approach to healthcare delivery is founded on the Ministry of Health's telemedicine strategy for 2020-2025, emphasizing robust clinical governance principles that ensure people receive high-quality and professional health services at the most appropriate level in the system. This strategy helps control diseases, reduces overcrowding in higher-level health facilities, and improves the quality of medical examinations and treatments. Ensuring timely referrals and continuous guidance from higher-level health facilities and specialist doctors when required leads to better health outcomes for the people.
Ramla Khalidi, UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam, remarked, "UNDP places high priority on supporting Viet Nam's National Digital Transformation Roadmap to 2025 and vision to 2030, including digital health transformation. Our long-term goal is to support the development of a nationwide grassroots telehealth system, where grassroots health workers are supported with guidance at their fingertips and patients receive the highest quality care on time." "UNDP is working with the Ministry of Health, provinces, and other counterparts in Viet Nam to mobilize further resources to support expansion to more provinces and the ongoing development of the legal and policy framework for telehealth," she added.