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HealthTech in Taiwan: Policies and Past Successes in Electronics Pave the Way for Large and Small Entrants

The landscape of Taiwan’s HealthTech can mainly be categorized into two subsectors, hardware-IoT and data management and analytics. In the last five years, the types of HealthTech startups launched are very much a result of government policy for the future and Taiwan’s electronics and hardware supply chain.

Starting in the 1980s, and for about two and half decades, Taiwan thrived on its semiconductor and electronics businesses.  This has allowed startups to leverage wireless and sensor technologies to build more advanced self-monitoring devices.  While many of the world’s OEM branded glucometers, blood pressure meters, and other IVDs have manufacturing subcontracted in Taiwan, a new breed of local startups are taking hardware and data management as an integrated play to enhance patient engagement.

Since the introduction of a national health insurance (NHI) system in 1995, Taiwan has been viewed as having comprehensive social health coverage. The Taiwanese healthcare system is characterized by good accessibility, short waiting times, low cost to its citizens, and national data collection systems for planning and research. Unlike other Asian countries, this is the main reason why you won’t find any startups dedicated to booking of appointments or tele-doc conference as access to healthcare is very easy and affordable in Taiwan. However, this same benefit is also starting to concern the government. As Taiwan faces one of Asia’s fastest aging population and an increasing prevalence of chronic disease, how much can the government continue to reimburse while maintaining long-term sustainability?  At the current rate, there’s no telling. As a result, the Taiwanese government has showed strong intent to encourage new services and technologies that would address the challenges. This is evident by the millions of dollars (US) that Taiwan’s various ministries provide in the form of grants each year. Unfortunately, such grants may not always end up in the HealthTech startups, as many of these grants require certain requirements and qualifications for the companies applying, most of which startups cannot fulfill.

Because of universal health coverage in Taiwan, data collection systems have long been setup to facilitate analysis, proper payment and reimbursement. However, there has been very little advancement amongst these data system integrators in the past two decades. With the Government’s recent initiative of “Personal Health Bank (where any citizen has easy access to his / her medical records), companies large and small are seeking to provide patient-centric services that are data driven.  At the same time, we have witnessed large hardware giants like Acer, Compal Electronis, and Foxconn Group entering HealthTech, mainly focusing on PHRs, data analytics, and preventative care.

HealthTech entrepreneurs in Taiwan would agree that many local venture capital (VC) firms lack understanding of scaling HealthTech services. While local investors may understand hardware and the risks that exists from concepts to prototyping and eventually going-to-market; the question ‘who pays?’ is tough for both investors and entrepreneurs.    For example, when the obvious business model in Taiwan for any HealthTech service is most likely the public payer, naturally, investors often shy away from HealthTech as scaling such a business beyond Taiwan may not be obvious and smooth in the early years of the startup. That said, there are VCs and Corporates VCs in Taiwan that have taken bets at HealthTech, such as Foxconn, BE Capital, WI Harper, and Cherubic Ventures.

In the near future, I believe hardware and IVD startups will continue to be the majority of Taiwan’s HealthTech ecosystem. The pace at which startups, focused on data analytics or software enabled precision medicine, are formed will have everything to do with new policies for private companies and startups to gain limited access to the large health data bank, for research purposes.

The following six HealthTech startups in Taiwan will give a richer view point:

ApoDx Technology – device combining ECG and heart sounds and cloud based analytics

Health2Sync – Provides personalized diabetes care that’s scalable

iFit – Positioned as go-to-guide for all things fitness

Maisense –  Claims to be the first cuffless blood pressure monitor in the world, measures straight from the pulse

LongGood – Provider of online gaming service for rehabilitation training at home

Daren – Innovative enterprise employee health management service platform

About the author:

Ed Deng is the Founder and CEO of Health2Sync and is the Galen Growth Asia Country Ambassador for Taiwan.

Copyright © 2017 Galen Growth Asia

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