Vietnam is going to launch its first national e-health plans this year, the Ministry of Health has said.

Director of the Department of Medical Services Administration Luong Ngoc Khue told the English-language daily Vietnam News that a national telemedicine service and a synchronous electronic medical records system will be set up in four years' time under the plans.

The telemedicine service is awaiting approval from the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister and the blueprints for the records system will be completed soon, he said.

The telemedicine project will connect all central hospitals and many provincial hospitals across the country using video conferencing technology.

A national website will also be set up so that everyone could access health information, wherever they are, said Khue.

The plan will need more than 90 billion VND (4.5 million USD) for its first phase (2011-13), of which 60 percent is to come from the State budget and the other 40 percent from the hospitals themselves. In the second phase (2014-15), a partly subsidised tele-medical service will be kicked off, he said.

Meanwhile, the second project will bring into operation electronic health records and medical services administration by 2014.

Khue said health records will be standardised and shared online, which will make it easier for people to receive health checks and treatment in different hospitals and, at the same time, improve the quality of record-based diagnosis and treatment.

The project will involve a portal on which electronic health records are stored with systems providing public services online, including granting medical licences to qualified organisations and individuals.

"It will make it more convenient for both health service providers and users," he said.

The project is expected to cost the Government 26 billion VND (1.3 million USD).

E-health is already popular in many countries around the world.

As for Vietnam , with 70 percent of the population living in rural areas and 32 percent with access to internet services, many experts see great potential for e-health and long-distance medicine.

Khue said e-health has already started in Vietnam but remains isolated with a lack of connections between healthcare centres.

The National Children's Hospital and Viet Duc Hospital in Hanoi are the leaders in this area, according to the Health Ministry.

The National Children's Hospital, for instance, rolled out an electronic health records and medical services administration system in 2003 and has held telemedicine conferences with international partners as well as local hospitals since 2005.

A lot of health research resources have also been made available on the hospital's website (, which is another form of e-health, according to a representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Vietnam , Jean Marc Olive.

Experts believe the Health Ministry's telemedicine project will be of great use.

Four-fifths of healthcare needs in Vietnam are from rural areas while provincial and communal health centres lack skilled human resources, according to the Health Ministry.

This will also ease the overloaded central hospitals./.