By using AI in the healthcare sector, Taiwan’s medical devices industry is preparing for global opportunities along with the US and European companies


Taiwan using AI in medical devices and healthcare (credit: pixabay)

Taiwan’s medical devices industry is turning to AI to solve the drawbacks slowing the country’s progression towards a smart healthcare system.

With 24 million people in the country, the decreasing number of hospitals, an ageing population and a healthcare staff shortage have been taking toll on country’s healthcare quality.

According to independent, non-governmental organisation the Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation, medical facilities begin to cut positions in order to reduce costs and as a result, a growing number of patients are being handled by fewer healthcare staff.

To tackle this, Taiwan’s current president Tsai Ing-wen has began initiatives to develop smart technology and help start-ups by creating an “AI Innovation Hub” that will foster 100 AI start-ups, as well as introduce tax credits and attract foreign talent.

By leveraging the strength of the country’s information and communications technology manufacturing capabilities, the medical devices industry in Taiwan can overcome these challenges, according to GlobalData.

Medical device analyst Prashant Khadayate at the market intelligence firm says the healthcare sector in Taiwan can begin to provide more accessible care to the elderly population through smaller and portable medical devices.

“These issues can be addressed in an effective way and turn the challenges into an opportunity,” he said.

“The medical device industry can use AI, big data and the Internet of Things to develop affordable and comprehensive healthcare solutions focused on digital health, medical imaging, decision support and precision medicine to improve the overall healthcare sector performance.”


What is straining Taiwan’s healthcare medical devices expenditures?

In Taiwan, medical devices must be registered with the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW).

A recent MOHW report stated that in 2016, Taiwan National Health Expenditure (NHE) amounted to $33.6bn (£26.57bn), representing 6.3% of GDP.

The NHE is expected to grow annually at a rate of 4.7%, putting further strain on healthcare expenditures.

This problem, however, is not just driven by the ageing population in recent years, but also due to the slow rate of economic growth, a universal healthcare coverage system and an increasing prevalence of chronic disease.

In the past two years, Taiwan has seen extensive public and private investment in AI as the country set up its four year “Taiwan AI Action Plan” last year, which aims to promote AI development.

With a total budget of $1.22bn (£970m), the office said it plans to train 1,000 advanced research and development personnel and 5,000 AI professionals by 2021.

It is also designed to identify cutting-edge research topics and technology advantageous to Taiwan and establish an international centre for AI innovation, was approved by the Cabinet Office of Science and Technology.

The ministry has also invested $515m (£407m) to set up four AI centres at prominent Taiwan universities, focused on the commercial capabilities of the technology.

GlobalData estimates the Taiwan medical devices market to increase from $2.8bn (£2.2bn) in 2018 to nearly $3.7bn (£2.9bn) by 2025.

Mr Kadayatem says this subsequent increase in the demand for healthcare products and services is due to the growth in the elderly population.

“Taiwan’s medical device industry is on the cusp of transition as the government is focusing on developing the country as the ‘Silicon Valley of Asia’ and transforming Taiwan into a ‘Hub of Biotech and Medical research and development in Asia’,” he added.

“Both these initiatives are expected to create an ideal ecosystem, which will largely benefit the medical device industry.

“In addition, the high-end medical devices developed in Taiwan offer the same performance but are cost effective compared to their US and European counterparts.

“Embracing AI in medical devices will not only solve the local healthcare related issues but will also prepare the industry for global opportunities, where currently the US and European companies dominate.”