Located on a mountainous northeast province of Vietnam bordering China, Quang Ninh has a total area of over 6,000km² in land. Despite having a variety of transportation systems including both road and waterway, its topography is complex.
It is populated with plains, high mountains and islands which makes accessibility difficult, and some of its districts and communes are a day away from city centres by car. As such, the population and community residing in the borders and outlying islands as well as the ethnic minorities face great challenges in receiving healthcare opportunities, making the telehealth network an absolute necessity for the region.
Similarly for medical staff, significant time and money had to be spent travelling to the Department of Health’s headquarters for regular training and meeting with clinical experts.
Since introducing the telehealth network, 24 hospitals and community healthcare centres (CHCs) across the province now have real-time, face-to-face connectivity with doctors and medical staff, serving larger numbers of patients and ensuring ongoing training for staff productively.
Further, the telehealth program has been established to provide technical guidance and emergency medical support in times of natural disasters and pandemics, preventing the lack of emergency response for incidents such as the prolonged torrential rain that occurred in 2015 that caused the loss of lives and properties in Ha Long and Cam Pha cities.
“The telehealth network has completely changed our levels of service to communities in the province and reduced the workload pressures on our clinical staff.”
“As an example, for diagnosis of more difficult medical cases, patients had to be transferred across large distances from regional hospitals to either the Bach Mai or Viet Duc central hospitals. What telehealth has done is provided us with that vital link to rapidly administer patient care and diagnose early symptoms,” said Vu Xuan Dien, Director of Quang Ninh Department of Health.
Achieving efficiency through increased collaboration
A significant benefit of the greater collaboration at the Quang Ninh Department of Health has been the enhanced efficiencies achieved at several different levels – from healthcare administration to delivering patient care and providing ongoing training to staff.
For example, where health directives and advisories had to be issued immediately, about 300 employees can now dial into a video conference so knowledge is rapidly transferred. This is especially crucial in managing natural disasters such as floods as well as outbreak of diseases.
Information, procedures and protocols can be shared and communicated more efficiently and effectively to ensure the right medical support is provided to the affected areas.
In addition, the leadership team no longer has to travel long distances to join important meetings, saving at least 50 per cent on costs and three to four hours per meeting.
Video collaboration has also reduced the burden on the central hospitals in treating referral and emergency patients. By linking medical experts in Vietnam and overseas through video collaboration, and improving coordination among central, provincial and district hospitals, remote populations have access to specialist medical services like never before.
An example would be how a rural ward in the province called Co To island district was able to learn and see how a live heart surgery was performed in the Quang Ninh hospital using Polycom’s video collaboration technology.
Besides reducing the need to travel, the technology has also enabled the rural ward the opportunity to expand their medical knowledge and expertise, a platform that was previously non-existent.
Mr Dien added:
“Our training programs for staff have rapidly accelerated through more frequent face-to-face collaboration. The video conferencing systems equipped for our 18 hospitals and CHCs were utilised for online conference calls to provide directions and guidelines for emergencies such as the prevention and control of outbreaks and natural disasters as well as used for professional training assistance.
“In 2015, we held 32 online conference calls involving 7,000 staff in 19 meetings for work-in progress updates and guidelines on the management of outbreak control and prevention. That is about 300 people per meeting on average; and 13 online professional training sessions for over 1,000 staff,” said Mr. Dien. “In addition operating rooms in 10 hospitals have also served for remote consultation, surgery and medical examination, and treatment to our healthcare centres. The Quang Ninh Department of Health is proud to have embarked on this telehealth program in Vietnam to continue serving our communities and employees better.”
Collaboration provides a critical lifeline
Among the collaboration solutions deployed across the Quang Ninh Department of Health’s facilities, are room solutions Polycom Group Series 500 and Polycom HDX® 7000 for High Definition video collaboration and rich-media content sharing, enabling effective conversations and sharing of information for geographically dispersed teams.
The Group Series 500 solutions are further enhanced with Polycom UC Board for use in diagnostic rooms at the hospitals, for instant whiteboarding of notes and annotating of X-ray imagery.
Virtual ward rounds and live surgery updates have been enabled through Polycom RealPresence Utility Cart 500, a mobile video collaboration unit which can be easily wheeled within premises, allowing users to bring in experts on location wherever they are needed.
“Polycom solutions improve several aspects of healthcare workflows – enabling telemedicine, care coordination, medical education, and healthcare administration at a distance,” said Ron Emerson, Global Healthcare Solutions and Market Development, Industry Marketing.
“Through High Definition video and audio technology and the use of mobile video carts at the Department of Health, it has not only transformed into a centre of healthcare excellence but also established a critical lifeline to patients and doctors in rural communities.”