According to media reports, Taiwanese last year spent NT$2 billion (US$61.1 million) on medication to treat colds and consumed 68.34 million pills, 46 tonnes of powdered medication and 300,000 liters of liquid medication.
To avoid the misuse of national health insurance resources, the National Health Insurance (NHI) Administration and the medical sector should advocate correct health education and promote the concept of self-care rather than tell people that they should go see a doctor if they suffer cold symptoms.
The main direction for healthcare policies in most nations has always been that prevention is better than cure, that people can treat minor symptoms themselves and that national health insurance resources should not be spent on self-healing disorders.
The health services in most nations, such as the UK’s National Health Service, provide health education through government or family physicians, so that people can learn how to treat colds by themselves and when they should see a doctor.
What the public really needs are doctors that are careful and meticulous in their health education.
That is why the medical sector and the government should provide adequate health education, such as teaching people how to assess a cold, which colds can be treated by drinking more water and resting, which should be observed and which require a visit to the doctor.
Administration statistics show that, on average, Taiwanese visit doctors more than 20 times per year, that NT$21.5 billion of NHI resources are spent on acute upper respiratory tract infections every year and that the percentage of visits to clinics that result in drug prescriptions is much higher than in advanced nations.
In addition, 14.5 of every 100 patients that visit a health center do so for light ailments, such as a cold, that could be treated using self-care measures.
That people purchase prescription-free cold medication also highlights several problems.
First, it shows that current registration fees for a visit to a doctor are too high and that it is much cheaper to buy cold medication over the counter. Doing so also avoids having to wait and is therefore seen as more cost-effective.
Second, although prescription-free drugs might be effective, and faster to obtain, there is a risk of people purchasing drugs that pose a health risk to them.
That is why improving self-care education is a key element of healthcare reform.
The Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation recommends a prompt implementation of Article 44 of the National Health Insurance Act (全民健康保險法) — which states that “the benefits of the family physicians system should be paid out on a per person basis” — and the establishment of a health education and consultation team that can win the public’s trust.
It also recommends the addition of warning labels to the outer packaging of drugs and user instructions to be placed inside the packaging that meet international standards.
This would improve the safety of self-care and a mechanism that ensures safe drug use, while also raising public health knowledge and awareness, and saving NHI resources.
Liu Mei-chun is a board member of the Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation. Ku Chih-fen is a researcher at the foundation.
Translated by Perry Svensson
In November last year, a man struck a woman with a steel bar and killed her outside a hospital in China’s Fujian Province. Later, he justified his actions to the police by saying that he attacked her because she was small and alone, and he was venting his anger after a dispute with a colleague. To the casual observer, it could be seen as another case of an angry man gone mad for a moment, but on closer inspection, it reflects the sad side of a society long brutalized by violent political struggles triggered by crude Leninism and Maoism. Starting
The year 2020 will go down in history. Certainly, if for nothing else, it will be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuing impact it has had on the world. All nations have had to deal with it; none escaped. As a virus, COVID-19 has known no bounds. It has no agenda or ideology; it champions no cause. There is no way to bully it, gaslight it or bargain with it. Impervious to any hype, posturing, propaganda or commands, it ignores such and simply attacks. All nations, big or small, are on a level playing field
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement on Saturday that the US was to drop self-imposed restrictions on meetings between senior Taiwanese and US officials had immediate real-world effects. On Monday, US Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra met Representative to the Netherlands Chen Hsing-hsing (陳欣新) at the US embassy in The Hague, with both noting on social media the historic nature of this seemingly modest event. Modest perhaps, but their meeting would have been impossible before Pompeo’s announcement. Some have welcomed this move, thinking that it is long-overdue and a step in the right direction to normalizing relations between
The US last week took action to remove most of the diplomatic red tape around US-Taiwan relations. While there have been adjustments in State Department “Guidelines on Relations with Taiwan” and other guidance before, no administration has ever so thoroughly dispensed with them. It is a step in the right direction. Of course, when there is a policy of formally recognizing one government (the People’s Republic of China or PRC) and not another (the Republic of China or ROC), officials from the top of government down need a systematic way of operationalizing the distinction. They cannot just make it up as