Telemedicine services save lives at grassroots-level hospitals

June, 16/2021 - 09:14

Online consultations offered by doctors at Huế Central Hospital helped save the life of a critically ill, pregnant woman at the Việt Nam - Cuba Friendship Hospital in Đồng Hới City in the central province of Quang Bình Province last September.


Doctors at hospitals across the country receive online consultations from experts at the Hà Nội Heart Hospital. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Health

HCM CITY — Online consultations offered by doctors at Huế Central Hospital helped save the life of a critically ill, pregnant woman at the Việt Nam - Cuba Friendship Hospital in Đồng Hới City in the central province of Quảng Bình Province last September.

The 30-year-old woman was at high risk for preterm delivery and had a vascular occlusion, but thanks to the online diagnosis and treatment advice from doctors at Huế Central Hospital, physicians at the Việt Nam - Cuba Friendship Hospital were able to save her and the child.

In recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of patients at grassroots-level hospitals have benefited from telehealth services provided by doctors at higher-level hospitals.

In the same province, the Quảng Bình provincial General Hospital recently successfully operated on a 32-year-old patient who was at risk of a ruptured pneumothorax after receiving online advice from surgical experts at Việt Đức Friendship Hospital. 

In another case, Hà Nội-based Bạch Mai Hospital gave advice to Hòa Bình Provincial General Hospital to save the life of a patient with anaphylaxis.

With telehealth services, people at home can receive consultations from doctors through smart electronic devices. This has helped reduce patient congestion at central-level hospitals. 

Dr Nguyễn Lân Hiếu, director of Hà Nội Medical University Hospital, said thanks to the telehealth system, people across the country in smaller cities and towns now had access to higher quality medical services.

In the same spirit, the HCM City Hospital of Dermatology and Venereology is offering remote medical examinations and treatment for patients via Zalo, a popular Vietnamese social network, at the number 0908051200. Online consultation services are provided from 8am - 11am and 1pm to 4pm from Monday to Friday by experienced doctors who are heads of departments and divisions. 

Depending on the patient’s condition, the doctor will advise on self-care with non-prescription drugs and topical products, or patients will be asked to visit the nearest medical clinic or the HCM City Hospital of Dermatology and Venereology if they need to buy prescription drugs.

Telehealth trends

A number of medical facilities across the country have had to be under strict lockdown at various times because of Covid-19 cases that have occurred at the facilities.

People with symptoms such as cough, fever, fatigue, shortness of breath and loss of sense of smell or taste can now receive a quick consultation video visit with doctors without going to hospitals, reducing the risks faced by medical staff.

A shift to telehealth services that take advantage of advanced technology and digital data will be a trend in the future, experts have said.

The Hà Nội Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s Remote Medical Examination and Treatment Centre provides one telehealth session a week with 37 lower-level medical hospitals. 

Nguyễn Duy Ánh, director of the Hà Nội Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said that remote consultations by leading doctors in obstetrics and gynaecology helped reduce maternal and newborn mortality rates since “many cases are diagnosed too late by lower level hospitals, missing the golden time for emergency care”. 

Doctors at the Mộc Châu General Hospital said the hospital since last year had participated in remote online consultations via a telehealth system with the Hà Nội Medical University Hospital. 

Director Hiếu of Hà Nội Medical University Hospital said the hospital had organised two remote examination and treatment sessions a week. “About eight to 10 seriously ill patients are seen online each session. After five months of implementation, the hospital has organised 40 working sessions.”

Director Ánh of Hà Nội Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology said that telehealth services would remain an effective treatment model even after the pandemic is over. “It will become a new trend in the future.”

Director Hiếu said there should be specific guidance from State agencies to implement telehealth services. There are currently no instructions on how to pay for medical examination and treatment with health insurance cards, expenses for doctors taking part in remote consultations, or transmission costs.

Telehealth project

The Ministry of Health in April opened a centre for telehealth diagnosis and consultation services at Thống Nhất Hospital in HCM City in April as part of a remote medical examination and treatment project for the 2020-2025 period. 

The hospital is one of 34 central level hospitals selected to give professional assistance to hospitals at the grassroots level. 

The goal of the project, begun in June last year, is for all patients to be managed, consulted, examined and treated by doctors from the commune to central levels. 

Nguyễn Trường Sơn, deputy minister of Health, said there were 1,500 establishments nationwide connected to central hospitals with provincial hospitals and commune health stations. 

The project reduced overloading at central-level hospitals and has improved the quality of healthcare at grassroot-level hospitals. 

During the recent COVID wave, online consultations helped health experts support the treatment of COVID-patients timely. 

As many 22 lower-level hospitals had registered to connect to the telehealth system. 

The health sector had set a goal to expand the remote health care network to more than 14,000 health facilities across the country to achieve universal health coverage and to connect the network with other countries.

Việt Nam has 1,400 public hospitals and 275 private medical facilities, 30,000 general clinics and 11,500 commune and ward health stations, according to the ministry. — VNS

Doctors at HCM City’s Children Hospital No.1 offer online advice to physicians treating a COVID-19 patient at the An Giang Province Obstetrics and Pediatrics Hospital. — VNA/VNS Photo