Taiwan’s Electronic Medical Records

User research informs education website

In the past few years we have seen some societal and technological changes in the Western world that are enabling consumers to manage their own personal health records.

Google Health and Microsoft’s HealthVault are some of the emerging platforms creating interesting new options for early adopters who want to manage their own healthcare information, or that of people close to them.

According to a recent paper, advancing electronic medical record (EMR) technology is also a high priority for governments in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, with investment over the next five years totalling $100 billion USD.[1]

Some other statistics from “HealthCast: The customisation of diagnosis, care and cure” (PwC 2010) suggests that;

  • 85% of health leaders said EMRs would reduce duplication
  • 71% said patient self management would be more efficient
  • 42%  said EMRs would be operational in their countries within five years

Ilias Iakovidis of the Health Unit for the European Commission speaks on the European context;

“Most of the 27 European Union (EU) Member states have an active political agenda for integrated electronic health record (EHR), but fewer than a dozen countries have regional or national scale EHR in routine operation. For example, Scandinavian countries embarked on e-health projects in the early 1990s and have achieved high levels of connectivity and use of information technology, ahead of most other countries, including the U.S. “

At the Health 2.0 conference held in Paris earlier this year, Morten Elbæk Petersen presented a compelling case study of Denmark’s sundhed.dk; the Danish National e-Health Portal. For many Health 2.0 delegates this was recognised as a leading innovation in electronic medical records.

Yet on the other side of the world, possibly unbeknownst to many Westerners, there is another healthcare revolution taking place.

Over the past 16 years, Taiwan has been creating a health management system that enables its 23 million citizens to carry a so-called ‘IC Card’ medical record everywhere they go. This Integrated Circuit card contains information about the last six medical visits, prescriptions, allergies, organ donation willingness and vaccinations.

It might be said that this is ’mHealth’ in the simplest and truest form of the word. There are no network or portable device or mobile operating system issues; just a straightforward application of technology to allow every citizen to carry their health information with them wherever they go.

One of the key ingredients to success for this project can inevitably be attributed to the convergence of systems and processes – starting with consolidating various insurance programmes into a single National Health Insurance (NHI) during 1994.

For any project designed for knowledge assets or information management, streamlining the many silos of data is imperative to introducing efficiency and reliability. Yet often it is cultural or human factors which prevent this from happening, particularly on issues around freedom of information, personal privacy, or resistance to change.

The introduction of electronic billing during 1995, and the eventual introduction of the IC Project during 2004, has led to increases in efficiency and reduction in outpatient visits (10%). Additionally, fraud, waste, and adherence have all seen improvements.

Achieved through enforcement and penalties, this compulsory change has transformed healthcare in Taiwan – albeit in a manner which might have been difficult in a populous western country.

In any case, Taiwan is now an excellent example of the ways in which the Far East is embracing digital possibilities to increase engagement, and to introduce efficiencies. Starting at the very root of the problem – the information silos and human factors – has led to an infrastructure that can support many new and emerging platforms, from iPhone to Android to the next big thing.

Any company looking to bring about transformation in mobile health inevitably needs to strategically look first at the underlying information and infrastructure that will support it.

To learn more about the way that Creation Healthcare is bringing global engagement strategy to Asia, contact us at our new Japanese office opening 1st July 2010, or at our Global Headquarters in the UK.

[1]      Various authors, “HealthCast: The customisation of diagnosis, care and cure,” PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute, 2010, p. 58.

View all articles >