Wed, Sep 19, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Telecare seen as viable option for aging population

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

Building on its strengths in the information and communication technology (ICT) sectors as well as medical care, the nation is increasingly looking at telecare services to cope with an aging population, officials said yesterday.

"Telecare services combine social networks, telecommunications and healthcare," said Lee Johnsee, director of the Industrial Technology Research Institute and president of the Telecare Industry Alliance Taiwan, at a conference on telecare involving officials from Taiwan and the UK.

"With Taiwan's well-trained medical workers, good medical centers and advanced ICT development, we have the strength to develop this industry," he said.

The Executive Yuan has submitted a 10-year program for providing healthcare to the elderly, he said, and what the nation must now do is learn from other countries, such as the UK, as it develops its infrastructure and expertise in developing the industry.

The number of Taiwanese aged 65 years and over reached 10 percent of the population last year, Deputy Health Minister Chen Tzay-jinn (陳再晉) said.

This figure, however, is approximately half of that in the UK, he said, which should give Taiwan the time it needs to address the needs of an aging population.

Taiwan is among the best in the world at mobile phone services, broadband internet connections and healthcare insurance coverage, he said.

Coupled with its advanced ICT sectors, Taiwan is in a wonderful position to develop telecare services for senior citizens, Chen said.

A pilot telecare project has attempted to incorporate three pillars to the service -- home care, community care and institutional care -- Chen said.

The project provides a mechanism for information sharing and a supportive platform for emergency and consultative services, especially in rural and outlying island areas, Chen said.

However, Taiwan must also learn to cope with certain limitations, he said.

These include a lack of reliable financial support for long-term care, insufficient telecare devices and linguistic barriers for migrant caregivers and the disabled.

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