APEC healthcare meeting opens – Taipei Times


FOCUS TELEMEDICINE:
An official touted Taiwan’s use of digital technology and said talks should be held on how to better use big data to improve health care

  • By Lee I-chia / Staff Reporter

The APEC Conference on Digital Healthcare Innovation opened yesterday in Taipei and representatives from 12 of APEC’s 21 member economies are expected to attend the two-day event hosted by the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA).

The agency received $75,000 from APEC to host the conference.

The conference is themed “COVID-19 Response by Health Information Utilization” and includes lectures, panel discussions and poster sessions. Some foreign participants would also visit Taipei Medical University Hospital today.

Photo: CNA

The four main themes of the event are: digital healthcare transformation and related innovations during the pandemic; new health policies and challenges in the post-pandemic era; telemedicine and the future for hospitals; and bring artificial intelligence to healthcare.

NHIA director-general Lee Po-chang (李伯璋) said at a dinner Tuesday that about 600 people had signed up to attend the conference in person or online, including 278 people who would attend in Taipei.

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It is the first major international conference that the Department of Health and Human Services is holding in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the NHIA said.

“The conference is a useful platform for us to share our experiences in promoting digital healthcare in Taiwan and share ideas with the international community,” Lee said.

The NHIA last month released a book called Digital Health Care in Taiwan – Innovations of National Health Insurance, published by Springer-Verlag, he said.

It is the first English-language book to introduce the National Health Insurance (NHI) system in detail, including its history, income strategy, payment structure, policies, medical information systems and other aspects, he added.

The book is available in physical and open-access electronic format, which has been downloaded more than 47,000 times since its launch, he said.

The NHI system includes a comprehensive database that has accumulated more than 70 billion medical records and more than 3.4 million medical images of Taiwan’s population, the NHIA said.

Making parts of the anonymized data available for research purposes has brought great benefits to Taiwan’s health policy and technological innovation, it said, adding that the data will also be used for COVID-19 prevention.

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“Digital technology facilitates the rapid transmission and integrated use of health data, opening up new perspectives for intelligent healthcare,” Lee said. “Through international collaboration, we want to discuss how we can better use Big Data to improve people’s health and well-being.”

“Since this could also create business opportunities, it also fulfills APEC’s goal of supporting economic growth and prosperity in the region,” he said.

Healthcare providers and the public have been unfamiliar with telemedicine, but that has changed rapidly during the pandemic as many people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and prescribed antiviral drugs via telemedicine, he said.

Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) told reporters on the sidelines of the conference that the Ministry of Medical Affairs has proposed a revision of the rules for medical diagnosis and treatment through telecommunications (通訊診察治療辦法).

The revision plans to expand eligibility to receive a prescription through telemedicine, Shih said.

Eligibility would expand from five categories of patients to 10, he said.

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The new categories are people with chronic illnesses in stable condition; people in hospice care and long-term care residents; welfare recipients; inmates; and people who need urgent care, for example because of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases, Shih said.

The draft revision could be presented next month and announced in December, to take effect on January 1 next year, he said.

The revision was proposed in light of the public’s increasing familiarity with telemedicine and infrastructure improvements, Shih said, adding that more than 98 percent of recent COVID-19 cases have received medical care through telemedicine.

If the revision is passed, the NHIA would upgrade the NHI system, including by promoting its digital NHI card and establishing an online NHI co-payment system to make telemedicine more convenient for healthcare providers and patients, Lee said.

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