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Accessing high-quality healthcare in Vietnam is a concern for both locals and expatriates. When it comes to specific treatments or surgeries, it is important to navigate the healthcare landscape effectively. In this updated article, we will discuss the current trends and issues regarding finding the best hospital in Vietnam in 2023.
It is not a matter of what the expats in your country know but who is the doctor well connected and unbiased to point you not necessarily to the best hospital but rather to the right professor or specialist and in the right country nearby.
Evaluating the Need for Surgery at a Hospital, do You Really Need it?
Healthcare in Vietnam is still primarily transactional, focused on curative treatments. Hospitals tend to recommend surgeries that they can perform in-house, and referrals to other specialists or peers are rare. It is advisable to seek a second opinion or explore alternative treatments before opting for invasive surgery in Vietnam, as doctors may be hesitant to refer to their peers or admit any weaknesses.
Perhaps you can avoid invasive surgery at a hospital in Vietnam
Culturally doctors see you as a client rather than as a patient. Vietnamese doctors do not refer to their peers or other specialists as they see them as competitors for their clients. Asking for a second opinion or another way to treat is a good practice before opting for a serious hospitalization in Vietnam.
Firstly, at $10/consultation, Vietnamese specialists make money on the drugs they prescribe to you, as advertising and selling medicines is authorized. Did you notice that, in Vietnam, doctors supply medicines without boxes and information? And of course the most money is made on invasive surgery when patients are hospitalized.
Second, private doctors have little relationship with big state-owned hospitals surgeons and have little exchanges with state-of-the-art practice unless they work at à state-hospital on top of their practice, which is fairly common.
Third, referring to a peer is a clear admission of its weakness as a medical professional and would not like the word to spread to his practice clientele and losing face too.
So they will tend to recommend the procedure they know they can perform.
Specialized Medical Specialties are not Well Represented in Vietnamese Hospitals
Certain medical specialties continue to be underrepresented in Vietnamese hospitals. Based on International SOS evacuation cases, specialties such as neurosurgery, hand microsurgery, cardiology, cancer treatment, virology, rare blood types, burns, rehab centers, serious eye conditions, allergies, blood tests, and pathology still see expat doctors and international clinics recommending medical evacuation to hospitals in Thailand, Singapore, or the patient’s home country.
So now you understand even the ‘best hospital’ can only offer what its best surgeon can deliver if he is still resident in Vietnam or in the hospital. As the best surgeons tend to be in high demand, they change hospitals or relocate to better paid capitals like Singapore or Hong Kong.
Seeking Recommendations from Peers or Asking Expat Groups for Best Hospital in Vietnam is Dangerous
Previously, expats relied on friends or expat groups on Facebook for recommendations. A common question in Facebook expat cum expert groups we see is “What is the best hospital in town?”
However, the probability of finding someone who had the exact same surgery in Vietnam has remained low. Instead, the key is to find doctors who are well-connected and unbiased, capable of directing patients to the right professor or specialist, whether locally or in a nearby country. A better question would therefore be “who has done this exact same procedure/treatment in Vietnam hospital and what was the outcome?”; unfortunately there are fewer expats to point you to the relevant hospital, especially if they did not survive the said operation surgery.
For instance, in cancer treatment there can be 4 or more ways to cure: ablation, chemotherapy, radiation, immuno, cryoablation, radiofrequency… with more or less side effects and debilitating effects…
Asking a group of expats for the best hospitals to treat a cough (which are usually the advanced lung cancer symptoms) will surely not be of help to cure you swiftly.
Question: What do all those ‘International’ hospitals in Vietnam have in common?
Answer: None are foreign ownership – all are Vietnamese owned – none is run by an International Healthcare management.
Importance of Doctor-Patient Relationship
Most “international” hospitals in Vietnam are Vietnamese-owned and not managed by international healthcare organizations. Therefore, the focus should be on finding the best doctor or specialist within a hospital. These doctors often work in public or university hospitals, have teaching roles, and participate in international seminars, ensuring their proficiency in English and expertise in their respective fields.
The Real Question is: Where to Find the Best Doctor or Specialist in Which Hospital?
Once you spot the procedure and you are for sure certain that it is the best thing to do for your/your family health, is to find the right doctor whether a specialist or surgeon (eventually that speaks your language) and in which hospital he operates?
Most times, such specialists or professors work in public or University hospital teaching and also traveling with peer doctors to international seminars on their medical specialty, thus speaking good english.
A good practice is to have a doctor as a friend in Vietnam or abroad
Indeed, under the stress of a recommended surgery abroad, you want an unbiased -and friendly-, non-commercial medical advice from a doctor.
Expat doctors tend to be more concerned with their hippocratic oath and reputation than Vietnamese doctors who can be very opaque should complications arise.
Independent doctors with no stake in recommending a surgeon in his specialty
Establishing a relationship with a doctor, either in Vietnam or abroad, is a valuable practice. In times of recommended surgery abroad, it is crucial to obtain unbiased and non-commercial medical advice. Expat doctors and international outpatient clinics often have extensive networks and can provide referrals within Vietnam or abroad, based on their clients’ specific needs.
Expat international outpatient clinics or doctors, as they have no stake in hospitalization invasive surgery and want to keep a pristine reputation to the small world of expats, have their network inside Vietnam (usually for budget clients) or outside to Thailand, Singapore or your home country where they can refer in a few phone calls away.
They can also arrange your appointment with priority as a ‘remote country referrer’ and the medical evacuation too in case of urgency and when no ‘international standard hospital of excellence exists in the country. This applies to countries or island in ASEAN where healthcare is non-existing like Borneo, Bali, Cambodia, Lao… and remote provincial cities of Vietnam.
Ask your Insurance Provider or Emergency Assistance Service for a Hospital Recommendation
Insurance providers and emergency assistance services are valuable resources for hospital recommendations. Their medical desks maintain databases of professionals and hospitals, ensuring swift and appropriate referrals. Contrary to the myth that insurers prioritize cost, reputable and regulated insurers aim for comprehensive treatment to avoid costly complications in the future. They also maintain a blacklist of hospitals and doctors to avoid, ensuring patient safety.
There is a myth that your insurer will try to find the cheapest place to do the procedure; this is only right for an unregulated and substandard insurer. The reason is simple: a reliable and regulated insurer will want you treated and cured once for all, so they don’t have to pay for extended and costly procedures to treat the subsequent complications.
More importantly the assistance service has a blacklist of hospitals and doctors to absolutely avoid -for what type of treatment-, if one wants to stay valid or just alive.
Conclusion: Finding the Best Hospital to Treat You in Vietnam and Asia
Finding the best hospital in Vietnam and Asia goes beyond seeking recommendations from expats. The key is to identify doctors who are well-connected and unbiased, capable of guiding patients to the right specialist or professor, either locally or in a nearby country. In serious illnesses or when in doubt, seeking medical care in one’s native or trusted country is often preferred for rehabilitation, mental support, and comfort in one’s native language, near loved ones.