Self-quarantine, social distancing and city/country lockdown- the spread of Covid-19 occurs much longer than expected, without knowing how and when it will end. Telemedicine now seems the best possible way to protect healthcare workers from contracting the virus and for patients receiving clinical services they needed.
Telemedicine has had its foothold in USA and the UK, connecting patients and physicians through mobile apps, computers or dedicated helplines. On the other side of the world, telemedicine in Taiwan has been developed over a decade, which originally served as an extension of primary care as a result of medical services shortage in remote areas. With the national rollout of 5G network in mid-2020, telecom operators, healthcare providers and ICT manufacturers have been given the green light to fuel not only telemedicine but also e-health, with an aim that everyone in the island, regardless of distance, has access to healthcare.
Taking a closer look at this trend, telemedicine is yet to stride islandwide in Taiwan. Challenges are not limited to regulations and privacy matters, however. Seniors may need assistance operating a video conferencing, image taking and/or bio data collecting, while for most citizens who live in modern cities where healthcare providers are close by, in a sense it would have been easier to visit a doctor’s office.
But still, telemedicine remains high on the government’s agenda. A test run has started in Yunlin, the second ‘oldest’ city of Taiwan with nearly 19 per cent of its residents aged 65 and over. Patients discharged from hospitals, with chronic diseases or specialty care needs (e.g. ophthalmology) are in the coverage of telemedicine in Yunlin, they will be taken care by a services network which brings together 10 hospitals, care centres and the ICT sector.
Following the completion of 5G infrastructure, public and private partnerships in terms of telemedicine are expected to flourish in a few years coming.