‘Graying’ society requires healthcare system reform

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Oct 08, 2013 - Page 3

The Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation yesterday called on the government to improve its policies on integrating the medical services for holistic healthcare, because the existing plans and pilot programs have been found to be widely inadequate.

Elderly people now account for 11.2 percent of the nation’s population, according to the foundation, reminding the government that Taiwan is now ranked one of the most rapidly graying countries in the world and requires a comprehensive healthcare system for its seniors.

The foundation has found in a survey that 58 percent of family members of elders find it tiring to frequently accompany seniors to visit doctors and 36.1 percent said that taking the elderly, who often suffer from multiple ailments, to visit all the medical specialists that need be visited is time-consuming and exhausting.

Foundation chairwoman Liu Mei-chun (劉梅君) said that NT$1.5 billion (US$51 million) has been allocated from 2009 to the end of last year for a pilot program working on the patient-centered integration of the outpatient care services within hospitals.

“However, so far only 170,000 elderly people, or less than 7 percent of the total elderly population, have benefited from it,” she said.

What is more, while the program has been designed to take care of people with multiple medical conditions, “as many as 67 percent of the service users on record are patients with only one chronic illness,” Liu said.

The National Health Insurance (NHI) administration has also been promoting for nine years the integration and construction of community healthcare systems that emphasize the role of family physicians, doling out a total of NT$8.3 billion, the foundation said.

“However, only 17.8 percent of those surveyed know about the service, and only 17 percent of those who have benefited from the service, which accounts for only 8 percent of the total population using the service,” the foundation said.

The foundation also found that nearly 70 percent of the surveyed family members of elderly people consider duplicate prescriptions a serious problem for seniors, and only one out of every four family members reported being asked by healthcare workers about the medication history of elderly patients.

“The registration of drug use history in the NHI IC card has been advanced for years, but has achieved little because it was not mandatory,” foundation executive director Joanna Liu (劉淑瓊) said.

“Ninety-two percent of the surveyed support establishing a patient’s medication history cloud. The administration should not delay the project any longer,” Liu said.