One of the final major items on my “before I leave Taiwan” todo list was checked this past Tuesday when I booked a half-day physical at Buddhist Tzu Chi Hospital in Taipei.
Since they wanted me there at 8am in the morning I decided to stay over in a nearby hotel, as the possibility of our car dying on the highway due to these extreme temperatures we have been having was very likely. I hate driving in Taiwan anyway. Unfortunately the hotel, though cheap, was noisy as hell, they only installed those cheap single pane windows that many apartments have here, and as such I arrived at the hospital half asleep.
As far as I know, you can get a physical at any hospital in Taiwan, at a time of your choosing. National Health Insurance covers the basics but the “extras” are the responsibility of the patient. Generally, most employers of a reasonable size arrange yearly physicals for their employees which include tests that go beyond what is provided for by NHI. I chose Tzu Chi because the last physical I had at a health center in China was laughably lax, especially the psychological evaluation, and while any hospital can give you a check-up, most can’t match the convenience of a dedicated facility. Tzu Chi offered the best range of tests for the most reasonable costs.
It’s very interesting being a consumer of medical services and receiving all the data from the tests so that you can make your own informed decisions about your health. It’s a shame that we will not have access to anything near equivalency when we move to Canada, a fact that was very surprising to all the staff at the health center.
The only improvement I wish was available was the ability to have this data off paper and into a device of my choosing. Coupling this data with whats available in HealthKit would be a pretty powerful tool for giving a decent overall picture of your health over a long period of time. Taiwan has digital records but I believe has yet to bring this to the patient.
I arrived early on Tuesday, signed in at the desk, and was given a key to my locker which had a comfortable tracksuit for me to wear through-out my stay. The health center is a bit difficult to find as like many hospitals TZU has a labyrinth of different places to get lost.
When I arrived there were approximately 20 or more other patients beginning the day of health checks. The nurses were joyfully complaining of being too busy but everything was handled courteously and efficiently. You generally just sit and wait for someone to come and take you to the next test, all of which were in close proximity to each other.
One pain point which might have been a concern. No one on staff spoke English. Though I haven’t been communicating in Chinese much at all this past year, I was fine, but things would have been much easier if their staff would learn to use terms outside the medical dictionary. But there was only a couple times that I had to get them to rephrase their explanations.
Some of the results from the battery of tests I received were available when I had my doctor consult, some blood work will take an extra day, with the full report sent to me within 4 business days. The doctor consult was like many doctor visits in Taiwan. Brief and as much a conversation with their computer monitor as one with the patient. They are willing to talk with you if you disagree with their recommendations, which I did, and if you have some questions, which I had a few. They are good people doing the best they can within the system that they operate, just like doctors in Canada.
As I have been informed that getting regular physicals in Prince Edward Island will not be possible, we hope to make regular trips abroad for similar check-ups. The price is reasonable and the quality comparable to what you might experience elsewhere.