Taiwan, your best destination for medical care

In the past few years, as medical travel has emerged as a major trend worldwide, Taiwan has begun to actively promote medical tourism. In 2007, the Taiwan Task Force on Medical Travel (TFMT, http://medicaltravel.org.tw) was established to advance Taiwan’s affordable high-tech healthcare services.
Taiwan has six major advantages over other countries in the world: high quality, affordability, high-tech facilities, sincere care, comprehensive medical care and professional medical teams. These advantages are elaborated in the following sections.
High quality Taiwan’s medical care system is well known for its quality at home and abroad. An accreditation system ensures that every hospital maintains excellent personnel, facilities, instruments and services, as well as the highest safety standards. Because hospitals with higher accreditation receive greater subsides, hospitals in Taiwan endeavor to obtain the highest level of accreditation possible, which in turn assures the excellence of their healthcare.
The Taiwan Joint Commission on Medical Accreditation (TJCMA) under the Department of Health (DOH) is the government organization in charge of Taiwan’s national hospital accreditation system. In 2006, TJCMA was accredited by the International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua IPA accreditation). Furthermore, National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) and Taipei Medical University, Wan-Fang Hospital were given the National Quality Award and the National Biotechnology Award, the highest honor granted for quality healthcare. Taipei Medical University, Wan-Fang Hospital and Min-Sheng Healthcare are the first Taiwan hospitals awarded Joint Commission International (JCI) Accreditation. Currently eight Taiwan hospitals are preparing or applying for JCI accreditation.
Affordability Taiwan’s medical institutions provide patients with high-quality medical care services at prices competitive with those in other countries. Generally speaking, surgical fees in Taiwan are only about one-fifth to one-sixth of those in the United States and the United Kingdom. For example, liver transplants in Taiwan cost about USD $88,000, about 29% of the price charged in the United States and 50% of those in Singapore. Coronary artery bypass graft surgeries (CABG) in Taiwan run only about one-fifth of those undertaken in US hospitals. Hip joint replacements are about US$5,900, about 17% of those in the US, 22% in the UK, 59% in Singapore, and 50% in Thailand.
Taiwan’s medical care not only focuses on serious diseases, but also provides affordable health examinations, such as general physicals, cancer PET exams, coronary artery exams and cranial / spine exams. In Taiwan, the cost of general physicals, which includes a panendoscopy, colonfiberscopy and cancer screen, is only 17% of what it would cost in the United States. PET screens cost only about half of those in the US and UK as well.
Taiwan is also a great choice as a beauty-enhancement destination. In Taiwan, the prices of various plastic surgeries, including rhinoplasty, liposuction and breast implants, are about one-third less than the US procedures. Last but not least, Taiwan also provides a variety of healthcare treatments like dental implants, excimer laser surgery and artificial reproduction. As all fees are from 50% to 80% less than those charged by US hospitals, your wallet will find such procedures less painful as well.
High-tech facilities Taiwan hospitals use state-of-the-art equipment, such as volume computed tomography, MRIs and PETs for cancer screens, Ar-He cryoablation and cyber-knives for tumor treatment and image-guided radiation cancer therapy. The quality of the equipment typically meets or exceeds the standard ones used in US hospitals. According to a recent report by TFMT, there were total 33 PET, 115 MRI and 321 CT scanners in use across Taiwan.
With regard to the medical data, Taiwan has been widely applying a picture archiving communication system (PACS) for over ten years. In 1996, Taipei Medical University Hospital improved the PACS system to Internet/Internet-Based Picture Archiving and Communication System (IPACS). This has made the transmission and storage of clinic medical images more convenient and effective. Hospitals in Taiwan are also capable of providing healthcare services to patients outside the hospital. WiMAX Technology is used for mobile health monitors. To further protect patients, hospitals have adopted the Ubiquitous Medical System for Home Care as a form of 24-hour secure health monitor, and the Medical Application of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). RFID enhances patient safety via drug identification and assists in patient identification and tracking.
Sincere care Providing customer-oriented and sincere healthcare services is an ideal shared by all hospitals of Taiwan. Independent buildings for preventive health care and operations have been built to totally separate service recipients from general hospital operations, allowing them to enjoy the best of service, comfort and privacy. In the meantime, we provide online instant messages to respond to our customers’ concerns on their health and examinations, as well as door-to-door transportation to and from the airport. Our staff members are fluent in English, and a personal translator is assigned to each patient to help ensure that all of the patient’s needs are met.
During the whole procedure, a healthcare team will look after the patient. A nurse will accompany the patient throughout the process, and a health care manager will conduct follow-ups and arrange regular visits for the patient. After exam results are received, a medical team will promptly tailor an individualized health management plan and solutions and, most importantly, arrange all follow-up services for the patient. We deeply believe that life is priceless, so we do our utmost to provide excellent quality and patient-centered healthcare.
Comprehensiveness Over the last few decades, Taiwan has become well-known for its so-called economic ’miracle.’ In 2006, Taiwan was ranked 18th among world’s economies; in 2005, Taiwan’s per capita GNP reached US$15,690 and GDP US$15,291. Taiwan’s level of medical and economic development is comparable to that of developed countries.
The medical care organizations in Taiwan’s public and private sectors have been actively promoting their medical and healthcare efforts on a global scale through over 100 related bilateral and multilateral cooperation projects. In 2002, the DOH founded the International Medical Training Center in Taipei Hospital, where to date 26 international medical teams have received training. Many local hospitals also have been engaging in educational and technical exchange with international medical organizations.
Professionalism and teamwork Professional medical teams eagerly serve their patients in Taiwan, which ranks the second healthiest country in the world by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The EIU uses thirteen indexes to evaluate the healthcare provided in 27 principal countries in the world. Taiwan’s high rating stems from its abundant medical resources. On average, there are a total of 22.2 doctors and 56.3 beds, with the occupation rate only 70%, for each ten thousand people.
Taiwan’s medical teams have made numerous outstanding achievements in the world. Chin-Gung Memorial Hospital, for instance, performed the first live liver transplant for a child. To date, its liver transplant team has achieved not only over 400 operations, but also the highest survival rate in the world. In 1968 National Taiwan University Hospital performed the first kidney transplant in Asia, and in 1979 it performed the second successful case of separating conjoined twins in the world. Currently National Taiwan University Hospital is the foremost lung transplant center in Taiwan, and regularly performs other transplants as well, including liver, pancreas and lung transplants. Over the past 5 years, the cardiovascular center completed more than 150 cases of elective percutaneous coronary intervention, achieving a 98% success rate.
Taiwan is also renowned for joint replacement surgery. For example, Chin-Gung Memorial Hospital has built up the Surgical Academy of Joint Reconstruction (SAJR) to coordinate top medical staff and resources like specialists in Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS). Many doctors of the SAJR have been invited to Hong Kong and other countries to demonstrate techniques and share experiences.
These accomplishments are the result of the relentless efforts of Taiwan’s medical community. Doctors in Taiwan must undergo thorough and strict medical training. In general, medical students need to spend at least seven years in the process, including four years for basic medical education, two years for a clerkship and one year for an internship. Afterward, resident physicians must undertake professional training for more than three years and then take a specialty exam. On average, it takes medical students 12 13 years to become an attending physician.
Taiwan’s top five medical specialties
Liver transplantation Local hospitals have garnered many outstanding achievements in liver transplantation. Since 1994, when Taiwan completed the first ever living-donor liver transplantation, our professional teams have endeavored to become the best in the world. In 1997, they also conducted the first split liver transplantation in Asia, and the first living donor liver transplantation without a blood transfusion or blood products in the world. In 2001, Taiwan performed a living donor liver transplant with a graft from a pregnant mother.
Chung-Gung Memorial Hospital’s professional team possesses the highest one- and five-year survival rates for live liver transplants in the world, with the latter reaching 92%. Furthermore, according to the American Journal of Transplantation, in 2006 Chung-Gung’s five-year survival rate of living-donor liver transplants for biliary atresia patients was 98%.
Cardiovascular surgery In 1998, National Taiwan University Hospital performed the first cardiac cryosurgery in the world and also the first successful heart transplant with an artificial heart. Taiwan also established the first team in the world to perform auto-heart transplantation surgery. In addition, Taiwan has performed more than 5,000 cardiac diagnostic and treatment procedures each year, including 100 heart transplants, numerous CABG, valve replacements, and cardiac catheterizations and stent implants. The success rate of coronary artery stent implantation is up to 99%, with less than 1% cases experiencing complications.
As of 2007, more than 6,000 supraventricular tachycardia procedures had been conducted, with the success rate reaching 98%. Taiwan also has garnered plenty of experience in radiofrequency catheter ablation techniques for arrhythmia, coronary artery disease treatment, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) and cardiovascular health examination.
Craniofacial reconstruction Since Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital established Southeast Asia’s first craniofacial center in 1978, Taiwan has helped more than 30,000 patients with a cleft lip and palate with a 100% success rate. Our hospital centers provide a wide range of treatments for craniofacial conditions, including orofacial clefts, secondary cleft deformities, aesthetic maxillofacial problems, and complex craniofacial deformities. With world famous state-of-the-art surgery technologies, Taiwan has trained more than 50 foreign seed doctors to help those in need overseas.
Chang-Gung’s center works very closely with Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation, a non-profit charity, and organizes at least 6 volunteer humanitarian missions a year to perform cleft surgeries in neighboring countries. From 1998 to 2007, the center completed a total of 116 cases for free overseas.
Joint replacement With abundant clinical experience in joint replacement, Taiwan on average conducts 20,000 related operations annually. Practically every regional and teaching hospital can perform this procedure at US standards or above. Taiwan widely uses MIS surgery, computer-aided navigation and rotation osteotomy to reduce tissue trauma during operation and shorten recuperation time significantly. In general, patients can take care of themselves without relying on others the day after surgery and start to fully enjoy a new life in two weeks.
Artificial reproduction National Taiwan University Hospital has improved human immature oocyte cryopreservation technology so that the pregnancy rate has been increased to 37.7% and the live birth rate to 27.7%. Taiwan also provides infertility counseling together with other types of reproductive techniques, including artificial insemination, IVF-ET, ICSI, blastocyst transfer and preimplantation genetic diagnosis.
Additional benefits to receiving treatment in Taiwan
Traditional chinese medicine From preventive health examinations to surgical treatment and recuperation, Taiwan provides an integrated and sound healthcare system to meet every patient’s needs. In particular, we introduce traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to the course of our treatment. Generally speaking, TCM covers three types of treatment: traditional herbal medicine, acupuncture, and tui-na (a kind of chiropractic medicine). In Taiwan, TCM is subsidized by National Health Insurance and overseen by a DOH agency, the Committee on Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy (CCMP).
CCMP was founded in 1995 to regulate and assist the development of Taiwan’s traditional medicine. To attain high standards in related medical research, CCMP uses ISO standards when evaluating research protocols. It also promotes Taiwan Traditional Pharmacopoeia, GMP of medicine manufactures, clinical research centers for Chinese medicine and accreditations of Chinese medicine hospitals. In response, many of Taiwan’s leading hospitals have established a Chinese medicine specialty.
Tourism in Formosa The solitary island of Taiwan covers 36,000 square kilometers and boasts a population of 23 million. It is located along the southeast coast of the Asian continent on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean. Two-thirds of Taiwan’s total area is covered by forested mountains with the remaining area consisting of hilly country, plateaus and highlands, coastal plains and basins. As such geographical diversity produces unforgettable landscapes and views, Taiwan has founded seven national parks to protect its natural beauty, flora and fauna. A total of 158 species are endemic to Taiwan alone, including 45 mammals and 84 birds and subspecies. Many migratory birds, such as the eye-catching fairy pitta, the black-faced spoonbill (of which only 530 are remaining worldwide) and the gray-faced buzzard are also treasured guests to Taiwan.
Advanced medical technology, diverse culture, breathtaking scenery, priceless art, variety of cuisines and friendly people make Taiwan an excellent destination for medical tourists.
Taiwan cares about your health!