Most Vietnamese prefer hospitals and clinics for their medical examinations and treatments. Having face-to-face encounters with doctors or medical professionals put the patient at ease, and the communication more direct.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has limited ordinary people’s capacity to go to hospitals when they get sick. The risk of infection from direct contact with others remains high, especially at medical centers where infected patients stay.
This has paved the way for the rise of online medical exams and treatment. While this trend has long been practiced in Western countries, in traditional countries like Vietnam, talking with doctors via laptop screens can sometimes feel intimidating, if not untrustworthy.
Platforms like Med247 — an online and in-person healthcare startup — aims to bridge the gap between patients and innovative healthcare service. Med247, which was one of the four Vietnamese startups listed in Forbes 100 To Watch list, operates through its own chain of clinics and app, and helps to improve the health of Vietnamese people.
That being said, can a technological solution for the medical industry like Med247 replace the traditional ways Vietnamese people are checked and treated?
To CEO Tuan Truong and COO Thao Nguyen, founders of Med247, the platform’s mission is to change and improve, not to replace the traditional practices.
A loophole in the healthcare system
Before founding Med247, Tuan worked in the technology sector, while Thao specialized in business and communication. However, the two have discovered a loophole in the Vietnamese health industry: standard examination procedure.
Being best friends for 18 years, Tuan and Thao then decided to become colleagues, realizing their vision of changing the medical landscape in Vietnam. After experiencing a midlife crisis, Thao longed for a bigger mission, while Tuan wanted the next generation of Vietnamese to have a standard medical and examination process. That’s why they decided to together develop technology for the medical field, which inherently relies on human-to-human interaction.
In Vietnam, 20% of the population will be over the age of 65 by 2025. Health care spending in Vietnam, by 2022, will reach $23 million and an additional $3 billion for medical tourism. Vietnam has only 7.8 doctors per 100,000 people, lower than the world’s average. There are about 35,000 private clinics, but not highly specialized. Moreover, the segment of preventive medical care, family doctor and online examination remain unfamiliar practices here. Not to mention healthcare expenditure is still way below the global average.
In developed countries, people are always proactive in taking care of their health, especially periodic health checks. Vietnamese people, meanwhile, are still very passive, only getting treatment when they catch the disease.
In recent years, though, Vietnam has gradually opened up to the digitization of health screening, diagnosis and consultation. Propelled by Decision No. 2628 of the Ministry of Health that approved the project “Remote medical examination and treatment” for the period 2022-2025, the private clinic segment is now gaining momentum.
The pandemic as a learning opportunity
From the early days of establishment, both founders of Med247 saw technology as the solution for people to have quick access to healthcare. However, Tuan and Thao are not aiming to replace the traditional treatment and recovery process, because most Vietnamese people still prefer face-to-face health examinations.
With Med247, the patients will receive 24/7 dedicated care from family doctors. Compared with other solutions on the healthcare market, the difference of Med247 is not in the technology, but in the heart and dedication poured into the service. Technology is only a tool that helps doctors and patients interact and examine more quickly and economically.
The pace of innovation in the healthcare industry is often slow, but the need for innovation is huge, as patients always expect a complete medical examination and treatment process. Vietnam’s healthcare industry has yet to resolve big issues in managing the volume of patients and demand for medical services, especially during pandemic outbreaks.
To Tuan, the past two years of pandemic were like a period of learning and improvement for the medical industry. This is the perfect time to see what Vietnam’s healthcare sector needs and lacks, and to resolve these challenges to better serve the Vietnamese people — and this is exactly what Med247 is about.
If you want to go far, go together
One of Med247’s achievements is the clinic handbook that includes technology and processes. Both hope that there will be new policies on online medical examination and treatment. Recently, Tuan and Thao even spoke with lecturers at universities specializing in public policy on this matter.
Currently, Med247 has recorded more than 5,000 face-to-face and online visits, with a return rate of 49% — which means each user visits 2.5 times in three months for re-examination and further consultation. During the recent fourth COVID-19 wave in Vietnam, the number of online visits increased by 200%; and the campaign to support people in Southern Vietnam with remote counseling has reached 50,000 people, with 600 patients receiving support.
Med247 wants to reach out to rural areas, where there are still many barriers to finding qualified medical services. By 2023, Med247 will have 200 convenient clinics and 15 nationwide flagship clinics, with 800,000 to 1 million users.
The professional ability of Vietnamese doctors and nurses, compared to the region, is not inferior, the two founders said. However, they face a lot of challenges in business, especially in operations and soft skills, which results in many Vietnamese people choosing to travel to Thailand or Singapore to seek treatment. Therefore, Med247’s mission is to support and share knowledge about these two skills with future generations of medical professionals, possibly building an academy, shared Tuan.
With missions to improve the health industry and the community, both co-founders of Med247 understand that they couldn’t make this journey alone. The motto “If you want to go far, go together” is the guidance for both to lead Med247 to the final destination: a healthy Vietnam where people are proactive in healthcare.
The program “Initiative for Startup Ecosystem in Vietnam until 2025” (also known as National Program 844) was approved by the Prime Minister on May 18, 2016 and assigned to the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam in charge of implementation. The program aims to create a favorable environment to promote and support the formation and development of fast-growing businesses based on exploitation of intellectual property, technology, and new business models.
Adapted by Thao Van