TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's largest healthcare expo wrapped up on Sunday (Dec. 6), with over 550 exhibitors and 150 startups showcasing their new digital healthcare technologies — including AI, VR/AR, and sensors — while National Cheng Kung University Hospital (NCKUH) continued to impress with more smart applications to help weather the post-pandemic era and enhance patient-centered care.
The Healthcare+ Expo Taiwan took place from Dec. 3 to Dec. 6 in Taipei. To address challenges and impacts caused by COVID-19, which has killed over 1.5 million people worldwide, the team has come up with solutions to help significantly reduce the infection risk for frontline healthcare workers, prevent high-risk populations from spreading the virus, alert doctors to patients in critical condition through AI data and machine learning, improve the patient experience by expanding precision medicine to hereditary epidermolysis bullosa, and train medical and nursing students through virtual reality headsets to minimize hospital trips.
Taiwan's Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) attended the expo and visited the NCKUH booth on Friday (Dec. 4) to watch a VR demo, stating he was impressed by the technological advances. Lai worked as a physician at NCKUH from 1991 to 1996 before entering politics.
VR/AR medical training
One of the most strenuous and costly tasks for hospitals is to train professional medical personnel. Only through real-world practice can medical students become qualified physicians or nurses and learn to fulfill their duties; however, limited resources and manpower often encumber hospitals as they try to bring new hires onboard.
NCKUH's VR/AR headset was created by NCKU’s College of Medicine to streamline medical training and optimize the use of medical equipment. With the headset, a rookie nurse can review the delivery process as many times as he wants before entering the delivery room; inexperienced medical staff can also familiarize themselves with the correct procedure for putting on personal protective equipment before they slide into the suits.
The device helps minimize accidents and waste of resources throughout the hospital's daily operations, according to NCKUH.
VR offers handy solutions to practice medical treatment (Taiwan News Photo)
The scuba diving mask-inspired respirator prototype was created by Dr. Kao Chia-lung (高嘉隆) and Dr. Lin Chih-hao (林志豪) two months after the pandemic began in early 2020.
The innovative mask is specially tailored to filter out virus particles from patients, so when the drug is administered through the nebulizer, the virus will not be released into the air. It can also effortlessly be transformed into a protective respiratory device by detaching the mask's drug delivery channel and turning it into a mini-mobile quarantine facility.
This design makes the mask particularly useful for passengers on flights. The team has obtained a Taiwan patent and is applying for ones in Europe and America.
Demand for the new respirator is expected to be huge given its utility and price (Taiwan News photo)
Voice-box for Elderly Care
NCKUH came up with a handy communication device that enables people, in particular the elderly, to make emergency phone calls with minimal effort.
By registering their phone numbers in advance, users can simply make or receive phone calls by pushing the button on the box-shaped receptor. This device brings benefits to seniors who have difficulty remembering phone numbers to contact family, friends, or supportive services.
Professor Liu Ping-yen (劉秉彥) from National Cheng Kung University's (NCKU) Institute of Clinical Medicine and Professor Lu Wen-hsiang (盧文祥) from NCKU's Department of Information Technology even transferred the device's recognition function into tablets designed for the elderly during their quarantine in the hospital. The tablets will help on-duty medical staff members to be quickly notified when an emergency occurs. This adaptation is also expected to be useful for geriatric homecare.
Making phone calls easier (Taiwan News Photo)
Artificial intelligence-based system for chest & brain X-rays
With nearly a million diagnostic examinations performed annually at the hospital, chest and brain X-rays are an important clinical imaging tool for the detection of lung and brain diseases. However, the time difference between imaging and interpretation might become a matter of life and death for patients who need immediate care despite the surface appearance of a stable condition.
To identify key findings quickly and accurately, the hospital leverages AI data to review chest x-ray and brain CT, such as pneumonia or intracerebral hemorrhage, to detect critical findings and allow doctors to act speedily.
The team said the system has collected thousands of images to optimize machine learning algorithms and is capable of yielding quality interpretations within ten seconds, with accuracy exceeding 99 percent in pneumonia cases.