Vietnam’s digital transformation goals, along with two years of COVID-19 outbreaks, have accelerated digital disruption in the healthcare industry. This has boosted efforts to digitize the healthcare sector, including incorporating Big Data and Artificial Intelligence into digital health applications. Here’s what that might mean for foreign firms in the medtech space.
Vietnam’s digital-savvy population, as well as high internet penetration and smartphone usage, have served as effective facilitators for MedTech innovations, according to research conducted by Nourhan Shaaban for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
However, there are still challenges that firms should be aware of. Deficient regulatory frameworks and strictly governed policies can pose difficulties when starting a MedTech business in Vietnam. Understanding these critical challenges, however, can give firms a competitive edge in making the most out of the significant potential in Vietnam’s MedTech industry.
Vietnam’s MedTech industry in numbers
Healthcare spending in Vietnam is predicted to increase at an annual rate of 9.2 percent from 2009 to 2025, reaching US$262 per capita, according to AmCham Vietnam. VIRAC research also shows that Vietnam's healthcare market has witnessed significant growth in recent years, with expenditure on healthcare products and services increasing by 11 percent over the last decade. According to Statista, digital health revenue reached US$968.2 million in 2023 and is expected to increase by 1.5 times that number by 2027.
This growth is mainly attributable to shifting demographic headwinds, increasing wealth, rising healthcare demand, and government healthcare policies in Vietnam. Over 31.6 percent of the Vietnamese population is aged 45 or older. Furthermore, it’s estimated that the fast-growing middle class will represent roughly 20 percent of the population by 2024.
With the increasing demand for higher standards of healthcare services, Vietnamese consumers are seeking increased transparency, convenience, and personalization from their healthcare providers. To address these emerging needs, healthcare technology companies are accelerating their digital transformations as they work to provide uninterrupted care for patients. To do this, they are collaborating with hospitals, pharmaceutical businesses, and the Vietnamese Government.
Leading MedTech startups operating in Vietnam
Despite being at the early stage of development, many MedTech startups are working to transform the future of healthcare delivery in Vietnam.
Korean-based venture capital firm Nextrans points out several key areas that are currently popular among MedTech companies, including health information technology, telemedicine, consumer medical devices, and AI-based healthcare services.
In particular, MedTech companies that have put customers at the center of their development have had the most success.
This is in line with findings from McKinsey & Company, that adopting a customer-centric approach helps MedTech companies to generate more significant revenue and much higher total shareholder returns (TSR) than their peers in today's medical world.
By focusing on customer-centric innovation, Vietnam’s MedTech startups are also receiving sizable investments from foreign investors. Take Vietnam-based BuyMed as an example. The company received $51.5m in Series B funding earlier this year.
BuyMed is a pharmaceutical distribution platform supplying medical products for thousands of pharmacies and clinics across Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. In May 2023, UOB Venture Management invested US$51.5 million to upgrade BuyMed's infrastructure and provide cost-effective distribution methods for medicine, according to Tech in Asia. Currently, the firm is the biggest player in the MedTech sector in Vietnam, with over 20,000 monthly active clients, and serves over 63 provinces in Vietnam.
Another standout performer has been Jio Heath.
Jio Health is a technology-driven healthcare provider in Vietnam. The startup received fundraising of over US$20 million in March led by Singapore-based investor Heritas Capital, paving the way for the expansion of Smart Clinics and the development of its omni-channel ecosystem in Vietnam.
Notable MedTech deals in Vietnam
|Name||Category||Funding Stage||Amount (US$m)||Valuation (US$m)|
|BuyMed||Consumer Marketplace||Series B||51.5||247.2|
|Jio Health||Teleconsultation||Series B||20.5||98.4|
|Med247||Medical Concierge||Series A||4.7||21.15|
|Genetica||Omics Related Applications||Pre-A||2.7||12.86|
Source: Healthtech Alpha
Emerging trends and growth opportunities in the MedTech industry
Armed with robust technological innovation, along with increasing demand in the healthcare sector, Vietnam's MedTech industry is poised to rapidly expand.
Shifting demographic headwinds and rising demand for healthcare services
According to research conducted by the World Bank, Vietnam has one of the fastest-aging populations in the world. The number of people aged 65 and older is projected to increase significantly to 19.6 million by 2049 and will make up nearly 18.1 percent of the population. This will significantly increase the demand for healthcare services in the future.
Furthermore, Vietnam's growing middle and upper class has also surged in recent years and is anticipated to account for more than 20 percent of Vietnam's population by 2024. These affluent groups are demanding high-quality services from their healthcare providers, including care delivery, outpatient treatment, and wellness services.
Acknowledging this trend, more and more hospitals in Vietnam are forming strategic partnerships with companies providing teleconsultation, telemedicine, or virtual surgery to add value to their healthcare offerings.
Accelerating pace of digital adoption, transformation, and delivery
At the start of 2022, there were 72.1 million internet users in Vietnam, accounting for over 73.2 percent of the population. The country also has relatively high internet penetration compared to other Southeast Asian nations, which adds to its potential for technology-driven companies in Vietnam.
Although Vietnam's adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies is still in the early stages, the country is making progress in technological innovation and trying to accelerate its digital transformation agenda. Vietnam ranked 42nd out of 131 countries in the Global Innovation Index, this indicates that efforts to build digital readiness among tech companies are working. MedTech companies are also employing cutting-edge technology in their services, like Big Data and AI, which is paving the way for more affordable healthcare services.
Supporting government policies
The Vietnamese government has several policies that focus on promoting investment in the healthcare sector and the digital transformation of Vietnam.
Decision No. 749/QD-TTg, for example, states that the healthcare sector in Vietnam is among one of the top priorities for digital transformation. Resolution No. 52-NQ/TW also proposes initiatives and provides guidelines for Vietnam's participation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and Decision No. 127/QD-TTg sets out a national strategy for the research and development of AI in Vietnam. These policies play a vital role in encouraging MedTech companies and investors to digitize Vietnam’s healthcare sector.
Vietnam MedTech regulations
Vietnam's increasing demand for digitally integrated healthcare services has been relatively steady, but the country's telemedicine and teleconsultation sectors still lack solid regulatory frameworks.
“The law is not very clear yet. Ministries keep changing the regulations, especially in the medical equipment area. Things keep changing all the time,” according to Huynh Phuong Tho, co-founder of eDoctor.
However, there are a number of regulations in other sectors that might be relevant to MedTech companies.
For example, the Law on Medical Examination and Treatment requires any institutional healthcare provider to obtain an operating license that is appropriate for their operation level and their range of services.
Furthermore, in the field of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, Vietnamese authorities have also established strict regulations.
The Law on Pharmacy declares the regulatory framework for the process of registering, selling, and distributing pharmaceutical products. Circular No. 32/2018/TT-BYT sets out the registration process for pharmaceutical items and the marketing authorization of medicinal ingredients in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese government has issued Decree No. 36/2016/NP-CP, which unifies control of both domestically produced and imported medical equipment. This decree declares that all medical devices must be registered and issued a permit by the Ministry of Health. In addition, all medical devices should be categorized into specific classifications depending on the degree of risk they pose. The requirements become stricter as the classification level increases. This is outlined in the table from Decree 98/2021/NĐ-CP below.
|Levels of Risk||Classification||Examples|
|Low||Class A||Thermometer, Wheelchair|
|Low to Moderate||Class B||Blood Pressure Monitor|
|Moderate to High||Class C||Ventilator, Hemodialysis Device|
|High||Class D||Infant Incubators, MRI|
Depending on the classification of a medical device, firms may be required to complete additional compliance procedures.
These strict regulations and cumbersome administrative procedures pose many challenges for MedTech companies operating in this field as they can delay access to the Vietnamese market and the provision of healthcare services.
The future of Vietnam's MedTech sector
Vietnam’s MedTech industry is still very much in its infancy, but many Vietnam-based MedTech companies have already found their growth drivers and received significant investments. The industry has strong growth opportunities as consumers demand more digitally integrated healthcare services and the Vietnamese government strives to accelerate Vietnam’s digital transformation.
However, firms should be aware of the regulatory frameworks and legal aspects of the healthcare system in Vietnam. These can be complicated and firms looking to enter Vietnam’s MedTech market or to invest in MedTech companies should consult a knowledgeable local professional.
For support with legal and regulatory requirements in Vietnam, contact the legal experts at Dezan Shira and Associates.