Patients' Responses to Emerging Telemedicine Systems in Taiwan

Chung-Chuan YANG <>
National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology


Telemedicine has recently generated tremendous interests among government officials and medical communities in Taiwan. In Taiwan's NII Initiative, telemedicine is also claimed to be one of the life-enhancing benefits that the Information Superhighway will bring to the public. A pilot test is being conducted between the Medical School, National Cheng-Kung University in Tainan and hospitals in the Peng-Hu Island (about 1 hour flight from Taiwan Island).

However, little attention is paid to discuss how patients perceive the emerging telemedicine systems. This paper connects the debate over impacts of information technologies with their diffusion. This paper aims to investigate whether impersonalness of these emerging telemedicine systems can affect the attitudes and perception of patients in a clinical situation and how such impacts will affect the diffusion of telemedicine systems. This paper is intended to examine the following questions:

1. Describe prototypes of emerging telemedicine systems and their ongoing trials in Taiwan.

2. Patients' attitude toward the telemedicine systems in Taiwan.

3. Patients' attitude toward the telemedicine systems in Taiwan.

Questionnaire survey was conducted to collect data from patients. Using 30 Likert-type scales, respondents were asked to rank their opinions about telemedicine systems in a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Preliminary findings indicate that patients perceive telemedicine systems to be beneficial to human beings (mean=6.136, SD=0.710). They also think that these new technologies can enhance overall medical care standards (mean=5.409, SD=1.007). They also agree that the introduction of new telemedicine systems will change how hospitals are operated and managed (mean=5.545, SD=0.739). Respondents in this survey also agree that telemedicine systems can help take care of aging population (mean=5.818, SD=0.853), can provide 24 hour medical services (mean=5.545, SD=0.800), and can share medical resources (mean=5.863, SD=0.834). However, patients think that telemedicine systems cost too much (mean=5.09, SD=1.05) and will not substitute traditional role of doctors (mean=2.409, SD=1.098).

Further analyses using principal component analysis extracted ten factors, which accounts for 85.5% of total variance. These factors include physicians-patient relationships, economic concerns, social impacts, negative impacts, hospital operations, ease of use, negative attitudes, substitutability, privacy, overall social benefits, etc. Correlation analyses indicated that patients' age is positively correlated to their attitude toward how telemedicine systems will have impacts on hospital operations. However, their age is negatively associated with the impacts of telemedicine systems on physician-patient relationship. It is also found that the amount of Internet usage is negatively associated with whether telemedicine systems will substitute traditional doctors. Implications of this study can be used to design better telemedicine systems.