Creating Taiwan’s Medical Brand—Taiwan Hospitals Support Partner Countries’ Healthcare

From Taiwan Panorama 2020-04-16
An imedtac wellness diagnostic kiosk in Thailand has both written and audio instructions in Thai, allowing patients to register with their ID cards, and measure blood pressure and pulse rate. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)(1)

An imedtac wellness diagnostic kiosk in Thailand has both written and audio instructions in Thai, allowing patients to register with their ID cards, and measure blood pressure and pulse rate. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)

In 2019, Vietnam’s National Hospital of Pediatrics conducted a successful liver transplant on the youngest patient in the nation’s liver-transplant history; a surgical team from Taipei Veterans General Hospital performed the operation. A Thai government promotional video on smart medical care featured a wellness diagnostic kiosk manufactured in Taiwan. And US Air Force One—the plane that carries American presidents—is equipped with a Taiwan-made digital telemedicine camera, which has also enjoyed excellent sales in the Southeast-­Asian market.

Taiwan’s medical strengths are recognized inter­nation­ally. For the past two years, as part of the Taiwan Medical and Healthcare Regional Partnership promoted by the ROC Ministry of Health and Welfare, Taiwanese medical centers have been supporting the healthcare systems of countries that are targeted by Taiwan's New Southbound Policy. As well as applying their excellent medical skills and treatments for the benefit of friendly nations, these hospitals have integrated their resources with medical equipment and pharmaceuticals manufacturers to introduce these vendors into the unfamiliar markets of their partner countries, thus burnishing the nation’s medical credentials.

For the Asian medical delegations that travel to Taiwan to visit smart healthcare facilities, it feels a little incongruous to take the high-speed rail from Taipei but then change to a slow local train to go to Yuanlin in Changhua County. Far from Taiwan’s preeminent metro­polis, they find themselves pulling into a one-horse town to tour a branch of Changhua Christian Hospital, a facility with less than 300 acute care beds.

However, upon entering the well-lit main lobby of Yuan­lin Christian Hospital, Taiwan’s first green-energy smart hospital, the visitors see senior citizens registering for consultations and collecting prescriptions for chronic ailments all by themselves. In the outpatient clinic, patients measure their own blood pressure and heart rates without help from nurses. At the nurses’ station there’s no whiteboard; nursing personnel check patients’ medical records on tablet computers. And on the wards, bedside care systems with touchscreens allow patients’ family members to order food for patients and to let nurses know when IV drips are almost finished.

“From registration to picking up prescribed medicines, from surgery to discharge pro­cedures, through integration of the Internet of Things into the medical information system, smart medical services allow the staff to see up to 3000 patients a day.” When the guide describes the smart hospital and the efficiency it affords, directors of overcrowded Thai and Vietnamese hospitals can’t help but sigh in admiration, the discomforts of their long journey well forgotten.

A team from the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research assists in interfacing with Taiwan hospital teams and leads medical-related businesses into New Southbound Policy partner countries. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)

A team from the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research assists in interfacing with Taiwan hospital teams and leads medical-related businesses into New Southbound Policy partner countries. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)

Public-private partnership

In 2018, Taiwan’s minister of health and welfare, Chen Shih-chung, launched the “One Country, One Center” project under the Taiwan Medical and Healthcare Regional Partnership, an arm of the nation’s New Southbound Policy. The project pairs a Taiwanese medical center with each partner country. Each of the six participating hospitals (seven in 2019) set up a medical and health exchange platform with the country it serves, introducing Taiwanese medical equipment and pharmaceuticals manufacturers to South and Southeast-Asian markets. In this way, Taiwan is implementing the spirit of the New Southbound Policy (NSP), by di­versi­fy­ing its markets and strengthening ties with other Asian countries.

Yen Huai-shing, principal coordinator in the Health & Welfare NSP Project Office at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, notes that what lies at the policy’s core is not public welfare but rather “business thinking.” That is, the hospitals play a pathfinding role, using their long-term connections and reputations to introduce Taiwanese medical equipment vendors and pharma­ceuticals manufacturers into emerging markets; formerly, over 70% of those companies’ export markets were in Europe, the Amer­icas, Japan, South Korea, and China. Changhua Christian Hospital (CCH) and National Cheng Kung University School of Medicine Hospital (NCKUH) are model participants in this public-private partnership.

CCH Overseas Medical Mission Center director Kao Hsiau-ling spells out CHH’s smart healthcare advantages, burnishing Taiwan healthcare’s credentials. (photo by Lin Hsuan-min)

CCH Overseas Medical Mission Center director Kao Hsiau-ling spells out CHH’s smart healthcare advantages, burnishing Taiwan healthcare’s credentials. (photo by Lin Hsuan-min)

Smart medicine and the Taiwan M Team

Since 2009, CCH has worked with northern Thailand’s Overbrook Hospital, providing free clinics and training medical personnel. Taiwan’s Medical and Healthcare Regional Partnership policy has enabled the two hospitals to expand their services throughout Thailand, offering a wider array of medical projects and resources.

Nina Kao, CEO of CCH’s Overseas Med­ical Mission Center, says, “We first conducted investigations and research, finding that Thailand is promoting Industry 4.0 and the Eastern Economic Corridor. CCH has ex­perience in building the first smart green-­energy hospital in Taiwan. We can meet the needs of Thailand’s e-health plan by sharing our ex­peri­ence and technology.”

Guided by “business thinking,” the Ministry of Health and Welfare asked the particip­ating hospitals to lead vendors in exhibiting at the Taiwan Expo and medical equipment ex­posi­tions. For example, at the Medical Device ASEAN Exhibition held in Thailand in 2019, 16 Taiwanese firms showed their products on the main stage. As a result, the Taiwanese booths were mobbed, while Japan­ese and South Korean booths were virtually deserted. Medimaging Integrated Solution Inc. (MiiS), which in the past dealt primarily with the American market and whose Horus scope digital telemedicine camera is installed on US Air Force One, took part in the MDA exhibition and immediately received a slew of orders. Consequently, the company’s 2019 ASEAN market revenue grew by 25% as compared to 2018.

Vendors appreciate the effectiveness of this “mother hen leading the chicks” approach. “How do we convince directors of foreign hospitals to trust a medical equipment company that is only three years old?” asks Beren Hsieh, business development manager at imedtac Co., Ltd. Thanks to the government’s New Southbound Policy and CCH’s leadership, the visiting hospital dir­ectors witnessed imedtac’s smart vital signs station, its postoperative waste disposal robot ORber, and other products in action at Yuanlin Christian Hospital. Seeing is believing!

Dr. Hsu I-lin, director of the International Medical Center at NCKUH, who was in charge of the hospital’s One Country, One Center project with India from 2018 to 2019, has also contributed to the effort. In cooperation with Karma, a Taiwanese assistive devices manufacturer with deep roots in the Indian market, Hsu set up the “Taiwan M-Team” website in June 2019, and was joined by 40 medical and healthcare device vendors with their eyes on the Indian market.

Karma has more than 1700 distribution bases and 24 delivery warehouses in India. The company shares its bases in India with newly arrived Taiwanese vendors, provides them with consignment sale facilities, and teaches localized and customized marketing strategies, enabling manufacturers to shorten ex­plora­tion periods and enjoy the benefits of teamwork.

An imedtac wellness diagnostic kiosk in Thailand has both written and audio instructions in Thai, allowing patients to register with their ID cards, and measure blood pressure and pulse rate. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)(2)

An imedtac wellness diagnostic kiosk in Thailand has both written and audio instructions in Thai, allowing patients to register with their ID cards, and measure blood pressure and pulse rate. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)

Medical teams burnish Taiwan’s image

Besides bringing Taiwanese suppliers into new Asian markets, the seven medical centers paired with seven countries have put together medical teams that are burn­ishing Taiwan’s medical brand.

Medical exchanges and cooperative endeavors are Taiwan healthcare’s biggest advantages. For example, Taipei Veterans General Hospital provided training for the entire transplant team of Viet Duc Hospital, Vietnam’s largest surgical hospital, and in 2019 conducted a liver transplant on the youngest patient in Vietnam’s 15-year history of liver transplants.

Wang Wen-fu, director of CCH’s “Long-Term Care e-Hospital” notes that CCH has developed an integrated dementia care system for patients ranging from those with only mild symptoms to those requiring hospitalization. The program is based on a combination of community care and the government’s Long-Term Care 2.0 policy. Experience and knowhow of this kind are the highlights of Taiwan’s overseas medical activities.

Redefining Southbound partnerships

According to Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics, more than 420,000 foreign nationals traveled to Taiwan to use med­ical services in 2018, a third of whom were Southeast Asians. Liu Hui-ping, a thoracic surgeon at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, is a Chinese-­Malaysian who came to Taiwan for his higher education. Whether conducting symposia or industry matchmaking meetings in Malaysia or giving interviews on the Malaysian government’s official Bernama News Channel, Liu vigorously promotes Chang Gung’s inter­national efforts, such as integrated cancer treatment and oral reconstructive surgery. That’s his way of giving back to his homeland.

Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital, which joined the regional partnership program in 2019, has duplicated in Myanmar the cooperative medical experience it gained in Palau, and since March 2020 has been using videoconferencing to assist hospitals in Myanmar to prepare for the coronavirus outbreak.

One Country, One Center project co­ordin­ator Evi Su reports that participating hospitals’ performance at medical equipment exhibitions and seminars sponsored by Taiwan’s medical and healthcare teams in South and Southeast Asia have amazed the host countries. Su believes that the New Southbound Medical Care Program will expand the Southeast-Asian market. One day when Taiwanese are vacationing in Southeast Asia and tell people they’re from Taiwan, Southeast-­Asian citizens will not only know about Taiwan but will also exclaim, “Your medical care is great!”

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