The nation’s aging population has led to a growing number of people with chronic diseases and, as a result, a higher need for new medical and pharmaceutical technologies.
Higher premiums might be inevitable due to increasing expenses, as the National Health Insurance (NHI) reserve fund is expected to run out by 2021 at the latest.
Considering the nation’s economic and political situation, and knowing that increasing NHI funding is difficult, the best solution is to cut unnecessary expenses.
According to statistics from last year, Western medicine prescribed by outpatient departments and clinics is the program’s primary expense, accounting for 34.8 percent of all NHI expenditures. This is followed by checkups, which account for 15.5 percent.
To reform the program, the government must first reallocate healthcare resources.
Late last year, the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) expanded its “cloud medical history system” and renamed it the “medical treatment cloud database.”
The system is designed to help doctors better understand their patients’ medical history, including prescribed medicines and checkups.
The government last year took measures to prevent repeat prescriptions by different doctors of commonly used drugs — such as those for hypertension, hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia — as well as hypnotics and sedatives. This not only reduced the health risks brought about by drug interactions, but also lowered medical costs by NT$130 million (US$4.31 million) per year.
In addition, the NHIA is asking hospitals to upload patients’ test results — including blood tests, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging results — to the cloud.
The agency is working with Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, National Cheng Kung University Hospital, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taichung Veterans’ General Hospital, Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital and Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital to check and sort images, and test the cloud system.
The goal is to enable all levels of the healthcare system to share information through the cloud, prevent additional expenses caused by unnecessary checkups or exams and build an effective referral system.
Without a beginning, there will be no chance for change. Hopefully more information on a person’s medical history would help them develop a closer relationship with their doctors. People are also encouraged to volunteer information about their recent checkups.
Only when healthcare professionals, members of the public and the NHIA work together can unnecessary medical expenses be prevented. This is essential for the sustainability of the NHI program.
Lee Po-chang is director-general of the National Health Insurance Administration.
Translated by Tu Yu-an
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