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PHL expecting healthcare technology transfer from Taiwan after MoU signing

By Alyssa Nicole O. Tan, Reporter

THE Philippine healthcare industry could benefit from technology transfer following the signing of an agreement between Taiwan’s Institute for Biotechnology and Medicine Industry (IBMI) and hospitals in the Asia-Pacific, a Philippine hospital industry official said.

“Initially, it is more of establishing relationships between the hospitals and of course, the Taiwan group of companies and then from there, we will see what benefits we will get eventually from having this relationship,” Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PHAPi) President Jose Rene D. de Grano told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of the Taiwan Healthcare Expo held in Taipei.

“Most probably, it’s going to be more of a transfer of technology, transfer of artificial intelligence, those things and that will probably improve, by a lot, the healthcare system in our country, because you know, our technology in the Philippines is (far behind),” he added.

Mr. De Grano said the memorandum of understanding (MoU) will facilitate Taiwan-Philippines collaboration in the fields of smart hospitals, cancer treatment, and biotechnology.

“The Philippine Hospital Association welcomes any initiative that paves the way to building a strong operation and collaboration with medical industry stakeholders in Taiwan,” Philippine Hospital Association (PHA) President Edmundo B. Lopez said in a speech. “This will surely benefit those in our respective health centers in pursuit in our attainment of our health reform agenda, with the continuous development and improvement of our healthcare system.”

Mr. Lopez said the MoU will help improve the standard of care and safety in the Philippine healthcare.

“On behalf of the Philippine Hospital Association, I am delighted to sign this MoU with IBMI to collectively facilitate collaboration and initiatives to name a few, in the field of smart hospitals, safe and quality healthcare innovations, advancement in prevention, diagnostics and treatment technologies, friendly hospitals, and digitalization enhancements,” he said.

“The Healthcare Expo is an important platform for public-private cooperation in the development of our next-generation health industry. It is also a key venue for showcasing the impressive results of Taiwan’s cross-disciplinary collaboration across healthcare, biotechnology, and digital technology,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said during her opening speech at the expo.

She noted that Taiwan has conducted exchanges in medicine and public health in accordance with its New Southbound Policy partners across the region, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), South Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

“Our Ministry of Health and Welfare recently announced that it will loosen regulations to let hospitals in Taiwan more easily establish overseas branches in Southeast Asia, helping further expand Taiwan’s regional healthcare,” she said.

The Taiwan government, industry and academics, she added, will work with its biotechnology industry “to further improve public welfare, create more business opportunities, and continue to distinguish itself on the international stage.”

IBMI President Chi-Huey Wong told BusinessWorld at the forum that “the next step probably (will involve) hospitals here and (continuing the discussion) about what is the best business model for collaboration.”

The information technology industry must work with healthcare professionals to come up with more efficient and cost-effective ways of managing hospitals, he added, noting that this may be of “great interest” to the Philippines.

“I think it’s important to know each other, and then to understand, for example, the difference in culture between the two countries, and we may come up with a good business model,” Mr. Wong said.

He underscored the importance of understanding the needs of partners before arriving at a mutually acceptable compromise.

Mr. Wong said that the IBMI first reached out to the Philippines in 2017, but described the rate of progress as slow.

“We want to speed up these kinds of collaboration, we need to have more interactions,” he said.

Philippine Medical Association President Jose P. Santiago, Jr. told BusinessWorld that the Philippine healthcare environment has changed since the pandemic hit.

“We’re now aware of COVID, and continuously question how we can deal with COVID in the future, just in case there’s another surge,” he said.

Mr. Santiago said that the Philippines should take advantage of the interest expressed by Taiwan, since “we have to really redirect our healthcare system and accelerate the course of its development.”

He noted interest in improving the Philippines’ capabilities in artificial intelligence, biotechnologies, and stem cell therapy, calling the expo a venue for finding partners that can help elevate the standard of care in the Philippines.

“Our organization will strive to encourage opportunities for further cooperation in the expansion of our networks overseas, especially here in Taiwan,” Mr. De Grano said.

“We expect future cooperation and coordination to have matchmaking events like this and conferences between the two countries and other ASEAN countries,” he added. “Probably by next year, we will have to communicate with them. I hope it will happen sooner than later.”

The Philippines can hold events to exchange ideas and technologies with businesses, hospital and industry experts from Taiwan, Mr. De Grano said, noting as well opportunities to exchange manpower through training.

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