International Health Liaison Centers were unveiled yesterday at the nation’s four international airports, with the aim of boosting medical investment.
The establishment of the health centers is part of the free economic pilot zone, under which free-trade districts at harbors and international airports are to be opened to foreign investment.
The stationing of health liaison centers at the Taipei (Songshan) International Airport, Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taichung International Airport and Kaohsiung International Airport is the first stage of health industry development in the planned zones.
Ministry of Health and Welfare said the centers help to raise the quality and strengthen the image of Taiwan’s medical services.
The ministry said the nation’s health services are reasonably priced and high in quality, adding that in the areas of cosmetic medicine, health examination programs and many non-urgent elective surgeries, the country is internationally competitive.
However, domestic regulations and insufficient marketing mean that the nation’s health services do not have a strong international reputation.
The “front shop, back factory” model has been adopted to overcome operational difficulties, following the lead of Asia-Pacific neighbors such as Thailand and South Korea, the ministry said.
It added that pre-travel information services, schedule arrangement and the coordination of subsequent medical services are provided at health liaison centers at Taiwan’s four international airports and at the Taiwan External Trade Development Council’s 59 overseas contact points.
“Neighboring countries such as Singapore, Thailand and India have long been working on [the development of international healthcare services], and recently many other places such as Osaka in Japan and Incheon in South Korea have begun work in this field,” Minister of Health and Welfare Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said.
“However, the main threat comes from China, where the industry is being quickly developed in three areas using the health park model: Shanghai’s International Medical Zone, and Chengdu and Hainan Province’s Boao,” Chiu said.
“They will attract international investment and professionals, including ours,” Chiu said, adding that if Taiwan does not move quickly, “the market will be swallowed up by our neighbors.”
Chiu said the second stage of the plan is to build health parks, which would be expected to attract health-related industries and medical professionals.
The ministry estimated that the establishment of the centers could attract and provide services for about eight million visitors a year.
The 45 medical institutions accredited by the ministry for international medical services have provided services to more than 200,000 international visitors between January and October this year, the ministry said, adding that the estimated value of these services to medical and health-related industries was NT$13 billion.