Elevating Patient Care with Access to Innovative Technology

The world of patient care is constantly evolving, thanks to the hard work, continuous innovation, and collaborative spirit of doctors, international healthcare providers, patient advocacy groups, and governments. To showcase some of the latest developments in this sector and their potential benefits for Taiwanese patients, AmCham Taiwan and the American Institute in Taiwan jointly held the 2022 U.S.-Taiwan Patient Care Innovation Forum on May 12 in the ballroom of the Regent Taipei.

Opening remarks at the forum were provided by AIT Deputy Director Jeremy Cornforth and Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Hsueh Jui-Yuan. Vice President William Lai delivered the event’s keynote speech.

In his remarks, Lai discussed the importance of innovation in healthcare, and compared the recent technological advancements in this field to his own experience as a doctor and chief resident at National Cheng Kung University Hospital in the 1990s, emphasizing just how far Taiwan’s healthcare has come since then. “Making good use of medtech will not only provide patients with better treatment options and enhance their quality of life, but it can also allow government to more properly allocate medical resources,” Lai said.

The first presentation of the event was given by Huang Tai-chung, an assistant professor of internal medicine at National Taiwan University, who enlightened the audience on advancements in chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cell therapy. CAR-T, a special kind of immunotherapy, involves changing patients’ T cells in a laboratory so that they bind to and kill cancer cells when introduced back into the body. The treatment has shown remarkable success in clinical trials targeting B cell malignancies, with overall response rates exceeding 80% in all patients. Given this, CAR-T cell therapy could have profound significance for patients, healthcare systems, and society.

Next, Lin Chih-ching, a professor-grade attending physician at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, presented on recent developments in peritoneal dialysis and the use of Remote Patient Management to treat patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Considering Taiwan’s aging population and the high incidence and prevalence rates of ESRD in Taiwan, as well as the need for patients with existing health issues to take extra precautions against infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, digitalized home-based dialysis and remote care is increasingly important to safeguarding the health of patients and healthcare workers, as well as enhancing quality and efficiency, Lin noted.

Following Lin’s presentation, Lai Hung-cheng, attending physician at Shuang Ho Hospital’s Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and professor at Taipei Medical University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, discussed the current contributions and future direction of precision surgery in women’s health. Lai noted that the growing prevalence of minimally invasive surgery using precision and robotic instruments for operations such as benign and malignant hysterectomies has resulted in faster recovery rates and improved quality of life for patients. He said that Taiwan should take advantage of the trend toward precision surgery and the island’s robust medical infrastructure to develop its medtech industry, but emphasized that the introduction of such technology should be accompanied by a complete training and payment system.

For the fourth presentation, the audience welcomed Ting Chien-kun, an anesthesiologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, who focused on how new smart medtech can significantly improve surgical outcomes, as well as patients’ quality of life. Ting presented data from the National Health Insurance Administration showing a high rate of severe postoperative complications and mortality in those above the age of 65. He pointed to the life-saving potential of AI and machine learning technology to predict hypotension during surgery, which can help reduce the incidence of shock.

Taichung Veterans General Hospital Superintendent Chen Shih-ann delivered the fifth and final presentation on the development of innovative technology in treating heart arrhythmia, a condition that affects about 5-10% of those over the age of 65. Arrhythmia can increase the risk of stroke or heart failure in patients. Chen summarized some of the latest developments in treatment, such as catheter ablation with a new imaging technology, intracardiac echocardiography (ICE). The procedure can reduce radiation exposure, and can be performed without the need for general anesthesia or endotracheal intubation. This has helped shorten the procedure time by 20% and the rate of repeat surgeries by 32%.

Providing closing remarks for the event was former Vice President of Taiwan Chen Chien-jen, now a distinguished professor of genomics at Academia Sinica. Chen praised the participants for their informative and thought-provoking presentations on a range of innovative treatments and technologies that would undoubtedly bring benefits to Taiwanese patients. He also encouraged the government to be more courageous and aggressive in making reimbursement decisions so that Taiwanese patients can benefit from the latest innovative technologies. He said he hopes that in the future Taiwan’s expertise in and experience with these technologies can be leveraged to help other countries, particularly its partners under the New Southbound Policy, adopt them as well.

The 2022 U.S.-Taiwan Patient Care Innovation Forum was sponsored by Baxter, Edwards Lifesciences, Intuitive, Johnson & Johnson MedTech, and Novartis.