The challenges in 2022 this Vietnamese hospital is bracing themselves for

Dealing with the fallout from the pandemic remains the main priority for Vietnam’s Gia An 115 Hospital this year, even as the country mulls a shift to an endemic COVID-19.

The worst of the pandemic appears to be behind us, with the majority of countries in Asia either having already transitioned towards an endemic COVID-19, or – like Vietnam – are in the process of doing so.

Given the gradual easing of COVID-19-related restrictions, as well as the opening of borders, there is genuine optimism that a return to a sense of normalcy in a post-pandemic world will happen sooner rather than later.

Nonetheless, the full transition to an endemic COVID-19 could still take some time, and some healthcare providers in the region are not letting down their guard just yet.

Among them is Vietnam’s Gia An 115 hospital. According to the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Truong Vinh Long, their main challenges for the coming year are expected to still be related to COVID-19.

Speaking to Hospital Management Asia (HMA), Dr Truong said: “The prolonged Covid-19 pandemic consumes resources…and causes long-term (financial) impact. The patient volume has also decreased due to concerns about the epidemic situation. This leads to patients seeking out treatment from the hospitals only when they are in serious condition, which is dangerous for them.

“Another major issue for us is controlling Covid-19 infection within the hospital, ensuring a safe medical environment for patients and medical staff.”

As part of Gia An 115’s plans to mitigate the financial impact caused by COVID-19, the hospital has managed to cut operation costs through lean management. In addition, they have conducted a restructuring of their organisation for a more effective allocation of human resources, while maintaining the core personnel of the hospital. A budget has also been prepared for re-establishment of the hospital.

To attract and retain patients to their hospital, Dr Truong revealed that they focused on strengthening connections – both remotely and in-person – as he said: “We organised a telemedicine service to support patients during the pandemic.

“Remote consultations were also provided to patients with acute or chronic conditions. We wanted to stay connected with our patients, and doing it remotely was a good way of supporting non-severe COVID-19 patients, while reducing pressure on inpatient care and maintaining access to routine services.

“We also held online health talk sessions with our patients to improve public health knowledge, increase brand awareness and stay connected with patients.”

In order to minimise the chances of patients with chronic conditions missing their medical appointments, Gia An would send them personalised reminders – either through a mobile application, text messages, or phone calls.

Transportation services, as well as remote consultation, are also provided to patients with limited mobility.

But perhaps the most crucial step Gia An has taken to reassure patients that it is safe to return to the hospital is to strengthen the infection control measures in their facility.

“To prevent disease outbreaks and cross-infection in the hospital, we promoted the operation of the hospital’s infection control network, strengthened inspection and supervision to strictly implement epidemic prevention measures at the various departments, “said Dr Truong.

“We then stepped up our marketing activities to share with the public the disease prevention measures that we’ve taken within the hospital. This was mainly through our website, where we regularly updated news related to the pandemic prevention, as well as provide updates and information about COVID-19.”

Dr Truong added that the hospital also transitioned to a flexible recruitment and staffing plan as a way of adapting to the shortage of healthcare professionals.

As with the majority of healthcare providers, the pandemic provided the perfect opportunity for Gia An to digitalise, with the hospital developing a ‘Smart Hospital’ project.

This includes incorporating an Electronic Medical Record (EMR), as well as implementing a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) and e-office for communication, document storage, information sharing, online meetings, and online trainings.

Said Dr Truong: “Digital transformation in the health sector is an inevitable trend and will certainly bring significant changes in governance, medical examination and treatment as well as health care services for people.

“The trend of digitalisation not only changes the process of providing and accessing medical services of health facilities and people, but also accelerates the process of transforming the working method of medical staff from the traditional platform into the digital one.

“Keeping up with this trend not only helps the hospital improve service quality, but also helps to streamline the operating system, save costs and resources, and bring benefits to both the patient and the hospital.”

To that end, a mobile application, named ‘LIM HEALTH GO’, was also developed, which boasts functionalities such as online booking, personalised health records, and e-payment, among others.

“The application is a healthcare solution through smartphones to change the approach to medical services towards efficiency, convenience and quality,” Dr Truong explained. “The application was created with the mission of building a complete and comprehensive health ecosystem, creating a solid bridge between doctors, patients, and the hospital.”

Looking ahead to what he expects the healthcare trends in Vietnam for 2022 will be like, Dr Truong said: “On a macro-level, the lack of medical staff to serve patients in the context of staff being infected and re-infected with COVID-19 increases the need for more personnel. Also, there is risk of COVID-19 infection in the hospital environment, especially for patients.

“The reopening of borders and the easing of travel restrictions this year means private hospitals should be well-prepared to actively welcome patient sources from neighbouring countries.

“But the biggest developments in healthcare this year will be primary healthcare, preventive medicine, telehealth, and post-COVID-19 treatment.”

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