Earlier this month, Siagon Innovation Hub (SIHUB) hosted a HealthTech Asia Meetup themed “How Tech and Social Enterprise are Revolutionizing Public Health in Southeast Asia” that featured mClinica Regional Manager Beth Ann Lopez as one of the three speakers.
Joining Lopez in advancing the conversation around health-technology were Will Greene, the director of TigerMine, an advisory boutique that helps innovative organizations, such as med-tech and bio-tech firms, succeed in Asia, and Phi Van Nguyen, the chairman of SIHUB, an initiative under Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Science and Technology that seeks to support local startups to global success.
Lopez, who graduated from Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health with a Master of Public Health, began her talk by sharing her journey from Boston to Ho Chi Minh City and then overviewing the growing prosperity of Vietnam. From 1999 to 2010, the country’s GDP grew from US$28 to 202 billion, in lock-step with concerns about capitalism. Some felt that capitalism prioritized short-term financial gains, depleted natural resources, promoted inequality, and even produced low-quality products, like fakes in food and medicine.
As a happy middle to the extremes of capitalism, Lopez introduced the idea of social enterprises like mClinica, and how they can produce both a financial and social return through profitability and impact respectively. Rather than weakening the business, the social value serves to strengthen it, as is evident in the two mini-cases Lopez shared on radiology software provider Lifetrack and health technology portal Alodokter.
Finally, Lopez discussed her own work at health-tech organization, mClinica, focusing largely on its flagship product, SwipeRx, a platform for pharmacy professionals. Since its launch in early 2017, SwipeRx has grown to more than 70,000 users across Southeast Asia, including 1 in every 3 pharmacy professionals in Indonesia and 1 in every 2 in the Philippines.
While SwipeRx came to Vietnam after other countries in Southeast Asia, Lopez cited several reasons she was particularly excited for the market. One was the regulatory environment, with the government supporting social enterprises through a 2014 law, and continuing professional education (CPE) for pharmacists with a 2016 law – Lopez explained that SwipeRx was often the first mobile provider for CPE in other countries like Indonesia.
Lastly, Lopez pointed to the people of Vietnam themselves, who are among the most digitally savvy in the region, with 85% of urban dwellers owning smart phones and 75% of country dwellers, and the seventh highest usage rates of Facebook in the world. This fact was evident in the attendance of the event itself, which was comprised of about one hundred founders, leaders, and investors from some of the country’s top startups, social enterprises, public health organizations, and tech companies.
Lopez was proud to have participated as a speaker in the HealthTech Asia Meetup, if only what it signifies for the country as a whole.
“There were around 100 people in the room, and I was taken by who they were and what they were doing. In attendance were some of Vietnam’s top leaders in tech and social impact, which bodes well for both SwipeRx in particular and health-tech as a whole: We have the brightest minds in the country now focusing on how we can leverage tech to change people’s lives,” said Lopez.