2020 has been an extraordinarily challenging year for people, governments, and companies around the world. For biopharma multinational Amgen, which this year turns 40, and its Taiwan affiliate, now in its fifth year of operation on the island, 2020 has become a time for reflection. As different countries experience varying levels of disruption and negative impact from the spread of COVID-19, the company has been working to identify what makes a healthcare system resilient enough to effectively protect its population in times of crisis.
“We see from our observations of various markets across the globe that in order for a healthcare system to be considered truly resilient, it must embody three core characteristics: affordability, efficiency, and sustainability,” says Joyce Lee, General Manager of Amgen Taiwan. “This means that medicine and treatments should be accessible to patients, that medical care is readily available, and that the system is able to continue in perpetuity.”
Since the coronavirus began spreading throughout the world in early 2020, a common topic of discussion is why certain places have fared better than others during the outbreak. With fewer than 500 cases and seven deaths, Taiwan is usually near the top of the list of those that have performed best.
That Taiwan has been able to contain the pandemic so effectively is no accident, says Lee. Rather, it is testament to the strength of its healthcare system, the foundation of which is the National Health Insurance program. NHI coverage has helped Taiwan with preventing the spread of COVID-19, a notable benefit for the island’s population.
Of course, there are areas where Taiwan can improve. Lee points to the philosophy of “break it and fix it” that currently drives the island’s medical system. Patients wait until they are ill or injured to go to a hospital or clinic to seek treatment. But Taiwan faces the reality of becoming a super-aged society by 2025. A larger elderly population susceptible to diseases and serious injuries could create a huge burden on Taiwan’s healthcare system and social fabric if not addressed properly. The government will thus need to consider a different approach to maintaining the nation’s health.
In Taiwan and globally, Amgen has been advocating the introduction of a “Predict and Prevent” concept in healthcare. Such an approach involves incentivizing people and healthcare professionals to proactively monitor health through disease screenings and other preventative measures, enabling the healthcare system to be more resilient. Lee notes that big data collected through Taiwan’s NHI system could be leveraged to make better predictions of whether patients are at high risk for certain diseases.
For now, the company is focusing its R&D efforts on addressing areas of unmet medical demand around the world. One of the major issues Taiwan is facing is osteoporosis, which causes bones to lose density quickly and become brittle and prone to fractures. Screening for osteoporosis or even awareness of the disease is not very common in Taiwan, and patients frequently start to receive treatment only after experiencing a fracture. Amgen Taiwan therefore has long promoted the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, advocating effective prevention mechanisms for those in high-risk groups to allow them to receive treatment as soon as possible.
To this end, Amgen Taiwan actively cooperates with government departments, medical associations, and medical institutions to promote the concept of “Predict and Prevent.” The aim is to promote bone health, strengthen promotion of the importance of bone density through various platforms, and provide simple questionnaires and other testing tools to let people understand their own bone density and to identify high-risk groups that should undergo bone density testing.
Last year Amgen Taiwan began collaborating with the Changhua County government and the Taiwan Osteoporosis Association to launch a county-wide osteoporosis screening program, which has since screened more than 2,200 high-risk osteoporosis patients. Lately, Amgen Taiwan and the Taichung Veterans General Hospital (TCVGH) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to undertake joint efforts for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, building the Taiwan’s first Center of Excellence in digital management for osteoporosis to strengthen shared decision making (SDM). Lee notes that since TCVGH has one of the best cross-discipline osteoporosis integrated care systems in Taiwan, Amgen Taiwan and TCVGH will work together to use digital technology to implement preventive medicine and improve people’s health and quality of life.
In conclusion, Lee stressed that “Amgen Taiwan will continue to work with industry, government, and academia to establish more comprehensive public-private partnerships and work together to build a resilient healthcare system.”