Tourism continues to boom in Vietnam: The coastal state on the Gulf of Tonkin is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Southeast Asia. Heartened by overall economic growth the people in this socialist country expect their healthcare to improve as well. The administration was quick to react. It not only adopted several laws and regulations to expand the healthcare sector but also invested heavily.
In 2015, the government earmarked US$ 11.6 billion to improve the quality of care. Over the past five years the country recorded major successes with regard to life expectancy and the reduction of child mortality und child malnutrition. Increased life expectancy and stronger purchasing power however bring about their very own challenges, be it healthcare for older people or changes in disease patterns with diabetes and cardiovascular conditions on the rise. At the same time people expect better healthcare. German Trade and Invest estimates that about 50 percent of the overall healthcare spend are direct payments by the patients themselves and they want their money to be invested wisely. These factors help to explain the increasing number of private healthcare facilities: in 2015, approximately 200 private hospitals were opened with a medical service offering that is geared towards the needs of the growing – and self-paying – middle class. These new facilities tend to opt for modern and high-quality medical technology, mostly foreign-made. But public and military facilities as well are updating their diagnostic and surgery equipment. While there are endeavors to use more domestic medical technology, still about 90 percent of the devices are imported, making the Vietnamese healthcare system an immensely attractive market for foreign med tech and IT companies. The number of import licenses issued by the Vietnamese Ministry of Health has been increasing steadily over the past few years and reached 5,500 in 2014.
In high demand: solutions made in Bochum
Next to Japan, Germany is an important partner of Vietnam for medical technology and IT. In 2014, the country imported products worth US$ 113 million – among them the JiveX family by VISUS. The local distribution partner is Vegastar Technology Company, one of the leading Vietnamese enterprises specialized in technological applications in security and medical technology. As a provider of PACS, Vegastar is a trail blazer in Vietnam, where only very few healthcare facilities have an image management system. And those that do want one, are looking for innovative and future-proof solutions. Case in point: Hospital No. 354 which is funded by the military. It is the very first Vietnamese hospital to choose JiveX for PACS – a system with future-oriented technology. In Hospital No. 354 JiveX not only consolidates radiology image data acquired by CT, MRI and mammography scanners but also non-radiology data such as ultrasound and endoscopy. This image management strategy can easily compete with that of any Western hospital.
For Hans-Willi Lohrke, in charge of international sales at VISUS, Vietnam is much more than just another economically interesting market; he is simply fascinated by the country: “If you look at the developments on the Vietnamese healthcare market over the past 15 years, the results are really amazing. They are trying to systematically improve the quality of care – full throttle. Highest standards are applied for the implementation of medical technology and IT systems, and consequently many facilities start from a very high technological level.” Notwithstanding the immense progress, medical care across the country cannot be perfect. In particular the marked divide in healthcare provision between urban and rural areas is cause for concern. And after all,technology is not the panacea: every single Vietnamese hospital is struggling with the shortage of professional medical staff. Currently the labor situation is characterized by low salaries, non-standardized education and training as well as poor working conditions. Despite these challenges, the Vietnamese efforts over the past few years have resulted in a healthcare system that is excellently positioned compared to countries on a similar level of economic development. The future looks promising.
Vietnamese healthcare system in brief
Vietnam counts 1,300 hospitals that admit a total of 146 million patients per year, approximately 13.5 million as in-patients. Overall, the Vietnamese healthcare system recorded important progress over the past few years, particularly with regard to reduction of child mortality and increasing life expectancy. The latter is currently at 76 years, higher that in most Southeast Asian countries.
Basic healthcare data for Vietnam (as of 2012): Sources: Ministry of Health,
General Statistics Office, World Bank