Taipei-Faced with potential manpower shortages and the need to free resources for critical care, the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) is hoping to significantly cut outpatient visits to top hospitals in the near future, NHIA head Lee Po-chang (???) said Monday.
The agency has set a goal of cutting outpatient visits to medical centers and regional hospitals by 10 percent over the next five years, Lee said.
In 2016, there were 30.69 million outpatient visits to medical centers, up from 25.62 million in 2010, and 41.14 million outpatient visits to regional hospitals, up from 33.46 million in 2010.
If the goal is achieved, the rapid growth in outpatient visits to the two types of medical institutions seen over the past seven years will be reversed and will actually fall by a combined 7 million over the next five years, Lee said.
Taiwan has tried for more than a decade to institute a multi-tiered health care system designed to get the most out of its medical resources.
Under the system, the best-equipped medical facilities -- medical centers and regional hospitals -- are responsible for handling serious illnesses or critical cases while leaving less urgent or more routine cases to district hospitals and clinics.
The issue has taken on new urgency, Lee said, because doctors will start to be covered by the Labor Standards Act in 2019, which may cut the amount of time they can work, creating a potential manpower shortage at major hospitals.
With that in mind and the need to ensure sufficient resources at big hospitals for critical and emergency care in the future, the NHIA needs to channel outpatients to smaller health care facilities, Lee said.
Under the new initiative, doctors at medical centers and regional hospitals should transfer patients diagnosed with minor ailments to district hospitals and clinics to avoid wasting medical resources, Lee said.
At the same time, however, patients with major illnesses who first visit district hospitals and clinics should be transferred to medical centers and regional hospitals, he indicated.
Lee said that at present, about 12 to 14 percent of outpatient cases at medical centers and 20 percent of those at regional hospitals involve such basic issues such as respiratory infections, conjunctivitis, abrasions, or skin fungal infections.
In other words, about one in every five to eight outpatients may be using resources that would better serve people with more serious ailments, he said.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel