NHIA expands telemedicine coverage

NHIA has increased the amount allocated to providers offering telemedicine from NT$100 million last year to NT$170 million to help more Taiwanese

  • By Lin Hui-chin and Liu Tzu-hsuan/staff reporter, with a staff writer

The National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) has expanded National Health Insurance (NHI) telemedicine service coverage to include the divisions of Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Neurology and Respirology starting this month, in a change that will expected to benefit nearly 800,000 people.

Last year, the NHIA began covering telemedicine services used by people living in mountainous areas and on outer islands amid increased need during the COVID-19 pandemic, but coverage was limited to divisions. of ophthalmology, dermatology and medicine focusing on head and neck conditions. , as well as emergency care.

The administration’s plan increases the amount allocated for telemedicine from NT$100 million (US$3.34 million) last year to NT$170 million for hospitals and clinics providing remote consultations or making home visits to patients.

Photo courtesy of Hualien Health Bureau

It also lifts a restriction limiting participation in the telemedicine program to one hospital or clinic in each area, he said.

To encourage more people to use “virtual” NHI cards, the administration said it would offer a monetary reward to hospitals and clinics that help people apply for them.

The virtual cards are used by more than 285,000 people, of whom nearly 110,000 applied for the cards after the application process was simplified on May 16, he said.

Medical resources are insufficient in mountainous areas and on outer islands, where 2 percent of Taiwanese live but only 0.75 percent of doctors work, NHIA chief executive Lee Po-chang (李伯璋) said on Saturday. adding that expanding coverage gives residents of the regions access to more medical services.

People living in mountainous areas and on outer islands seek medical treatment more often than the national average, sometimes up to 14.4 times the national average, said NHIA official Yu Hui-chen (游慧真) .

Many of these places lack doctors who specialize in areas other than general and internal medicine, so telemedicine is needed to give people access to doctors who can consult remotely, she said.

The telemedicine supported by the NHI is different from the remote consultations adopted during the pandemic, which would ultimately no longer be offered, she said.

Among those who sought medical treatment through telemedicine in the first half of the year, 86% were over 40 years old and more than 90% of them sought eye and dermatology care, according to the NHIA data.

Telemedicine consultations are usually provided by doctors of a certain specialty at certain times, which may not always meet people’s needs.

To provide better care, Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital set up “Hua Ling Medical Station” in Fusing (復興) Township of Taoyuan in 2002.

Local doctors can invite specialized doctors to provide remote treatment to people during times when they usually provide outpatient services by registering on site or in advance, said Chang Gung Medical Foundation CEO Pan Yen-chien (潘延健).

The government promotes telemedicine through several programs, he said, adding that they can be integrated to popularize their use.

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