Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Hospital to pilot elderly care system

CARE IN THE COMMUNITY The care system comprises a blood pressure monitor, a blood sugar monitor and a weight and body fat monitor linked to the Web

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The growing number of elderly people living either on their own or with an elderly partner has inspired Yonghe's (永和) Cardinal Tien Hospital to develop a plan to make daily checks on the health of isolated senior citizens.

The system is almost ready to launch and the hospital is looking for volunteers for the free pilot program, publicity director Hsueh Kuei-wen (薛桂文) said yesterday.

"There are more than 800,000 elderly people living either with another elderly person or completely alone," he said. "Not only is it inconvenient for them to get to clinics and hospitals for checkups, if a medical emergency occurs, it could be days before anybody realizes that something has happened."

Hsueh said that the long distance care system comprises a blood pressure monitor, a blood sugar monitor and a weight and body fat monitor, which are designed to be easy to operate.

"If the elderly person in question can still operate a television remote control, they will have no problem with this system after a little training," Hsueh said.

The information gathered by the monitors is then sent to the hospital automatically via the Internet, Hsueh said.

The elderly person is expected to use the monitors daily.

"If we see that somebody on our program missed a health check, we can call to make sure that they are OK," Hsueh said. "We will also arrange a health call if the patient's records indicate abnormalities."

The hospital is looking for 60 low-income senior citizens above the age of 65 who live alone and suffer from a chronic disease that requires monitoring to participate in its free pilot program for one year.

However, Hsueh warned that once the program was offered commercially the costs might be "steep."

Hsueh said it was hard to put a price tag on the service at this stage.

"Not only is the equipment itself expensive, the program is incredibly manpower intensive," Hsueh said. "Not everyone will be able to afford it."

Earlier, in an interview with the Taipei Times, Department of Health Deputy Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said the increase in the number of new profit-making services offered by hospitals and clinics was a result of a stagnant National Health Insurance budget, which has cut into hospital profit margins.

"As one source of revenue declines, it is inevitable that hospitals and clinics will seek other ways to make money," he said.

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