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Taiwan Smart Healthcare Rises Buoyed by the Pandemic

As the pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe, healthcare became vital and in urgent need of tech-enablement to cope with both the surge in caseloads as well as restrictions. To manage this, major electronic technology companies in Taiwan have invested in telemedicine. By leveraging the AI, IoT, 5G and 8K, products have gradually moved from field verifications to actual applications. The resulting no-contact economy and no-gap innovation that are provided by such products have accelerated the transformation of traditional healthcare into smart healthcare.

To make achieve healthcare mission goals, companies have all allied with medical centres to launch telemedicine and telecare in communities, remote villages, mountainous areas, and island districts all over the country.

One tech company, for instance, has teamed up with the National Taiwan University Hospital and a telecom company to promote the implementation of telemedicine and 5G smart medical solutions in remote rural areas. Their telemedicine platform adopts a novel virtual consultation model that is combined with diagnostic tools, such as a digital otoscope, pharyngeal endoscope and ultrasound. Moreover, the platform allows physicians from far away to cooperate with doctors at local health centres in order to conduct real-time dynamic functional assessments as if they are actually on site.

One creative company seeing the growing need for medical resources to answer the needs of the times has provided portable medical suitcases and telemedicine trolleys. These products are in a better position to serve the fast-paced market.

Another company has launched the first 5G+m IoT telemedicine system in Taiwan.  In the process, they’ve created virtual clinics using the concept of Software as a Service (SaaS). These virtual clinics were first piloted in three rural areas with relatively insufficient medical resources, namely: the Catholic Mercy Hospital of the Hukou Township of the Hsinchu County, the Haiduan Township Public Health Center, and the Dawu Township Public Health Center of the Taitung County. In 2021, the service was further extended to Orchid Island and the Green Island and a Cardiology Department was added.

Meanwhile, another tech company has specialised in auxiliary diagnosis based on its strength of ICT. It had received the first smart ophthalmic device license in Taiwan and so far has developed two products. One is an AI-based diagnostic software for diabetic retinopathy, and another is a telemedicine platform for video consultation. The former utilises AI to interpret diabetic retinopathy images and determine whether a patient is at risk and requires a referral, within three seconds after the images are uploaded, thereby avoiding treatment delays. The latter assists in the scheduling of medical consultations and stores consultation information in the private database of the clinic or hospital, thereby ensuring data security.

Challenges remain ahead. Chongliang Shi, Executive Deputy Chief of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said that a telemedicine and telecare network that focuses on regional joint defence should be implemented. The network is based on two key perspectives. The first is that it should be centred around medical centres and regional hospitals and utilise telemedicine in acute and critical care.

For example, multiple doctors of various specialities are on duty in Taiwan in the middle of the night. By making these doctors accessible through telemedicine, treatment can be carried out via teleconferencing, regional joint defence, green channels, referral and monitoring, and others. The other perspective is that the network should be based on primary clinics, medical groups or health centres that are facilitated by remote consultation, remote pharmacy, and other methods.

Indeed, Taiwan is moving up when it comes to its digital transformation in the healthcare sector, domestically and internationally. Recently, it exported superfast COVID-19 test kits. Indeed, ICT is the front, right and centre of its economic development. Small wonder the country is being considered a launching pad by a company into digital healthcare for the region as reported by OpenGov Asia.

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