Sat, Jun 03, 2017 - Page 4 News List

New Southbound Policy: Trade, medical help turns into shared policymaking

SETTING AN EXAMPLE:Taiwan could help its partner nations build an efficient and affordable healthcare system, and offer training courses to medical professionals

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Ministry of Health and Welfare International Cooperation Office Technical Superintendent Hsu Min-huei speaks at a news conference in Taipei on May 8.

Photo: Liao Cheng-hui, Taipei Times

The “new southbound policy,” launched by the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) aims to diversify and boost social and cultural ties between Taiwan and 16 ASEAN and South Asian nations, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Extensive cooperation with partner nations is under way in the fields of medicine, agriculture and tourism. It is evolving the nature of relations from medical assistance and agricultural trade to healthcare policy planning and technological exchanges.

PUBLIC HEALTH

Taiwan has long cooperated with its Southeast Asian partners in epidemic prevention, birth control and treatment of rare diseases and deformities, and the scope of cooperation has expanded from a purely medical context to public health planning on a governmental level.

Taiwan’s medical collaboration with partner Southeast Asian nations has included organ transplants, orthognathic surgeries for cleft palates, bone marrow transplants, and surgeries for morbidly obese people and conjoined twins, but the focus has shifted toward public health policy planning and health system reform, a Ministry of Health and Welfare official said.

Taiwan is known for its affordable and universal healthcare system and hospital efficiency, and the nation’s experience has been emulated by nations seeking to develop an efficient healthcare system, International Cooperation Office Technical Superintendent Hsu Min-huei (許明暉) told the Taipei Times on May 18.

“For example, the nation’s healthcare smart card system allows public health authorities to manage personal healthcare information. Coupled with a well-designed insurance coverage and auditing system, the system reduces administrative costs and helps reduce healthcare fraud to almost zero,” Hsu said.

“In many nations, most health insurance premiums are paid for services that are not actually performed and Taiwan has paid what might be the lowest cost [in providing necessary services], which is a good example for nations that are developing an affordable healthcare system,” he said.

Malaysia has emulated Taiwan in developing its own universal healthcare system, he added.

Advantech Co Ltd (研華), the nation’s biggest industrial computer maker, has developed a healthcare information system and surgical instruments with embedded information systems to enable the digitization of hospital management, such as a digital registration system and electronic medical records that are essential parts of an efficient healthcare system, Hsu said.

“The government and business sector are ready to help the nation’s partners transition to a more productive and cost-effective healthcare system,” he said.

Taiwan is offering training to partner nations to cultivate teachers in areas of essential and advanced surgeries, with at least 100 professional courses to be offered this year.

A group of Vietnamese physicians have received training on kidney transplants, and they will become pioneers in that area and pass on their expertise to new physicians, Hsu said.

The cooperation would involve government-to-government dialogue in which medical and public health goals would be determined, followed by their execution by a team of academics and private-sector specialists to ensure that medical agreements are followed through, he said.

The Global Cooperation Training Framework — an initiative by Taiwan and the US to expand cooperation on humanitarian assistance, public health, environmental protection, energy, technology, education and regional development — would provide a platform for cooperation between Taiwan and its partners, he said.

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