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Telehealth Solutions that Address Healthcare Gaps in Remote Rural Areas

8/5/2021

Photos provided by Advantech Interview with Chun-kai Chang, Business Development Manager of Advantech

Taiwan has more than 50 outlying mountainous islands and 117 towns/villages that are classified as remote rural areas. When seeking medical attention, residents in these areas typically travel for up to two hours to reach the nearest hospital. Because of this inconvenience,people in remote areas tend to avoid going to hospitals unless absolutely necessary. Despite Taiwan boasting one of the best healthcare systems in the world, the lack of medical resources in remote areas has presented consider able challenges in recent decades.

Leveraging its years of experience developing medical technology solutions, Advantech has been collaborating with local health bureaus and large medical centers to accelerate the deployment of telemedicine care services in remote rural areas. These efforts are giving rural residents equal access to the medical services enjoyed by their urban counterparts,without necessitating long-distance travel. This demonstrates how Advantech is utilizing AIoT to effectively promote sustainable healthcare.




Medical carts facilitate tele-consultations

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Since 2020, the New Taipei City Department of Health has helped 13 rural health clinics and regional hospitals implement tele-consultation services that address the lack of specialized physicians in the local area and provide rural residents sufficient access to medical services.

As highlighted by Chun-Kai Chang, Business Development Manager for telehealth at Advantech,because patients with diabetes are at high risk of developing complications, such as diabetic retinopathy, management of their condition requires regular checkups and ongoing monitoring.The New Taipei City Department of Health offers diabetes patients one free eye examination every year. However, only 34% of patients nationwide take advantage of this service, with Shimen Township reporting a substantially lower examination rate. This is because of the lack of locally based ophthalmologists. Instead, Shimen residents must travel to the MacKay Memorial Hospital in Tamsui District for examination. Given that a high number of these diabetes patients are elderly, they are relatively reluctant to travel long distances for treatment. Although the Shimen Health Clinic does arrange transport for local patients to access appropriate treatment, this service is only available once every six months.Patients can easily miss checkups if they forget to make a reservation or fail to arrive at the transport departure time.

In October 2020, Shimen Health Clinic adopted Advantech’s telemedicine solutions to enable staff to flexibly arrange examinations for patients. This means that forgotten or missed appointments can be rescheduled within the next few weeks instead of patients having to wait another six months. Mr. Chang asserted that this service improved the flexibility of eye examination appointments and reduced travel time for patients. Moreover, because examinations and consultations can now be completed within half an hour, patients are much more willing to return for regular checkups.

Innovative solutions for remote rural areas

Considering that in some remote rural areas there may not be a fixed location for tele-consultation services, Advantech also developed an innovative telehealth kit as a portable alternative to medical carts. This kit is a 20-inch specialized suitcase that contains all the required equipment,is easy to carry, and allows tele-consultations to be conducted from any location with an internet connection. This ensures that medical care and treatment services are provided in even the most remote rural areas.

To enable healthcare equality for residents in remote rural areas, Advantech continues to leverage its technological expertise to create additional telemedicine solutions that can be adapted to various environments. In this way, Advantech aspires to help people in urban and rural areas remain physically healthy while living long and happy lives.