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Technological Innovations Drive Taiwan’s Healthcare

Taiwan’s healthcare system has been highly regarded on the world stage, especially in recent years. A healthcare index ranks Taiwan’s healthcare system as second in the world for the quality of its infrastructure, professional competency, cost and other related factors. Taiwan has made efforts to encourage innovation and implement global partnerships to ensure its services stay on par with its peers globally.

Taiwan’s largest and most advanced training centre has acted as a unique platform for local medical start-ups to showcase and test their new ideas and technologies to an audience of doctors from across the region. Through a partnership with a MedTech accelerator, a hospital-backed venture capital fund has been set up, with investments made in more than 10 companies thus far.

Doctors are able to really get to know the technology and see that it has a meaningful impact on care outcomes. The focus on innovative technology extends beyond looking at external companies. Many of Taiwan’s hospitals carry out their own research work into new medical innovations.

The ability to embrace up and coming technologies are crucial to driving hospitals’ growth and development. Hospitals should keep up-to-date on the latest in devices, pharmaceuticals, precision medicine and be able to pivot quickly and set up partnerships with different players in the market. Various systems need to be in place to allow this to happen.

Taiwan needs to have a system in place for doctors in different specialities who can be contact persons of these innovative treatment modalities. In addition, it is also essential to have a system of management that can navigate a rapid change of technology in the healthcare industry; for example, to quickly adapt and design a new payment system for patients, using QR codes, while considering the threat of cybersecurity.

These innovations involve constantly looking at every detail of patient service, to ensure patients are treated well with their needs being taken care of, such that they feel they are in a safe, comfortable environment. This is a never-ending journey of looking at the guidelines, protocols, how the patient goes through the hospital, and how the different specialities come together and serve the patient as an individual.

Although the rise of telehealth has helped to extend the reach of hospital services further from its physical location, the issue of defining the payer for such services remains to be solved in Taiwan. The government has allowed insurance reimbursement for telehealth services during the pandemic period. However, the policy remains unclear as to what will happen once the pandemic is over.

There is also the need to define specific protocols and workflows for telehealth, that are vastly different from physical services. Telehealth is about integrating video conferences with the workflow or patient journey within the hospital. Doctors need to have a specific protocol for specific diseases. Therefore, every telehealth treatment protocol needs to be redesigned according to the technology and how the doctors and the different specialities work in each hospital.

The trend of telehealth is likely going to continue after the pandemic, but the healthcare industry needs to embrace these technologies and be able to implement the technology in a meaningful way. Having a platform for clinical trials to prove that the service can and will improve patient outcomes will, in turn, persuade the local authorities to cater budget for telehealth services.

Digital health has been growing significantly in Taiwan, including the adoption of AI in the medical sector. As reported by OpenGov Asia, Taipei City-based research organisation is promoting the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in academic institutions, nongovernmental groups and enterprises through data exchanges and open-source projects. Taiwan’s leading role in the global supply of semiconductors means the country is ideally placed to integrate the latest and greatest technologies into the biotech and medical sectors.

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