By Giulia D'Alessandro
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has coordinated with the Ministry of Health of Vietnam to implement the project on primary telemedicine using the application “Doctors for Everyone”.
This is a remote medical consultation, examination, and treatment support system based on a smartphone application to enhance the quality of medical services, as well as increase access to health services for people.
The project was implemented from August 2020 to June 2022 in Ha Giang, Bac Kan, and Lang Son in Vietnam. The areas selected to implement the project are located in the Northern mountainous region with difficulties due to geographical conditions, traffic, education level, and low economic development. The healthcare system at the primary level plays an essential role in providing primary healthcare services for people, to ensure that all people receive basic healthcare at the lowest cost. If people have timely access to healthcare, emergency assistance, and regular visits to the community, it can significantly improve health, reduce morbidity, and limit mortality. This further proves the necessity of focused intervention projects for provinces with difficult conditions.
“Doctors for Everyone” provides a connection between healthcare workers and the people to share medical information, schedule appointments at the health stations, and provide remote consultation services. At the same time, local healthcare workers can receive professional help from healthcare workers at bigger hospitals through video calls.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) evaluated the telemedicine project to address its effectiveness and to find out any difficulties and challenges to eventually expand the Project, through the presentation of a full report in June 2022.
The Report showed that thanks to the “Doctors for Everyone” software, people could book an appointment for medical examination and follow-up examination; ask and exchange health information with health workers via text message; receive messages for follow-up advice, prescriptions, and follow-up visits, and receive health communication information.
At the same time, primary-level health workers could schedule medical examinations and follow-up visits with patients, as well as prescribe medicine online.
The project had many positive impacts on the local health system. It enhanced people’s access to and quality of health care services and it strengthened the connection and sharing of information between medical facilities at the same level and between levels in the local health network. The software also proved to be convenient to limit the overload as well as the waiting situation that causes frustration for people during the medical examination and treatment process.
Despite some difficulties due to limited IT infrastructure in some districts or provinces involved, the telemedicine project can be considered a successful activity that can contribute to increasing accessibility and improving the quality of healthcare services for people living in disadvantaged areas.