Case Study Highlights: ThuocNET e-Health Network
Dr. Bui Thi Thanh Mai of CIHP spoke with CHMI about the tech model's innovations
CHMI has published more than forty case studies on various programs profiled in our Programs Database. Over the coming months, we will be highlighting these works with in-depth interviews with implementers and authors. All of the studies are posted in full under the analysis section of the website.
ThuocNET is an ongoing pilot with major hospital chains to manage visit information and reduce errors utilizing cloud computing to centrally manage patient records. The user-friendly web portal is rapidly gaining in popularity and now sees about 5000 visits per day from consumers as well as pharmacists and health facilities. Dr. Bui Thi Thanh Mai took a moment to talk about the project and case study writing experience.
Why did you choose to focus a case study on website www.thuoc.net.vn? What were the components of the program that interested you from the beginning?
The reason we chose www.thuoc.net.vn (launched in 2004) is that it provides a unique model of software for electronic record keeping and issuing of prescriptions. The number of Internet users in Vietnam is growing but information technology (IT) for health is still in initial stages of development. Most of hospitals in Vietnam continue to use paper records and handwritten prescriptions. This causes difficulties for both the patients and the physicians to keep and manage the records over long periods. This website is an online platform, which assists people in storing and obtaining records online and allows patient medical records to be accessed and updated from anywhere by their physicians. It has also helped to reduce the time of administrative procedures.
What was most surprising about the program?
The speed with which the website took off. After a three month trial period, nearly 2,500 physicians became registered members. At the end of 2010, this number had reached 4,000. This could be due to the fact that members only pay $.80 for a yearlong subscription to the program. Resources to cover the operating costs of the program, around 1 billion VND per year (US$60,000), have come mainly from shareholders and several other sources.
What were the most difficult aspects of adopting the program?
The most difficult aspects found during the study were overcoming the novelty of the technology for the healthcare staff and lack of infrastructure in the system. The majority of the staff in the healthcare sector is not used to applying IT solutions to scenarios such as prescriptions or references. Additionally, basic equipment such as computers and Internet connections are still not available in many health facilities, especially at the district and commune levels. Thus, utilization of the project can be a challenge to many health facilities.
What questions do the results of your study raise for future research?
One of the company’s applications is also piloting distance examination and treatment (telemedicine) – with the long-term goal of connecting local and central level hospitals to support diagnosis and treatment. Future study can explore about the probable solutions to creating an environment where services are both accessible and affordable to the poor.
Some questions that can be raised as follows:
Will the poor be able to access the services at an affordable price?
What role should the government play in this telemedicine model?
Does it have enough clinicians and technicians to use these technologies?
How can the knowledge from the study be applied to other aspects of the health field?
We found that there was a big need for information sharing and collaboration among health programs in Vietnam. Many projects can use this website to facilitate the monitoring and evaluation process as it reduces time to collect data electronically from many remote areas.
What does the research mean for other similar ventures?
The research does not intend to systematically assess the website, however some data may reflect the positive impacts of the website on health sector. In addition, it also discusses key thematic areas of the website aspects, including challenges and lessons learned as well as describes the detailed description of growth plans at the end of the research. It aims to provide a comprehensive sight on this model for the improvement of other similar ventures.