Taiwan to Host IBM's First Joint Healthcare IT Research Unit

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IBM will work with Taiwan to research and develop healthcare services and devices using the latest information technology and data management techniques. The two signed a research collaboration deal Monday, IBM's first in the healthcare field, it said.

The IBM Research Collaboratory in Taiwan will house researchers from the American company as well as those from Taiwan's publicly funded Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Institute for Information Industry, and several universities including the island's well-regarded National Taiwan University.

"The collaboratory's mission is to pioneer smarter solutions, technologies and services that would be validated in Taiwan and then exported to the rest of the world by IBM and Taiwan companies," IBM said. Researchers will use technologies such as mobile devices, analytics and cloud computing to keep people healthier longer and better manage illnesses.

Researchers from IBM and Taiwan plan to focus on preventive medicine and wellness as ways to increase the quality of life and cut down overall healthcare costs. IBM's own wellness program has resulted in healthier employees and lower healthcare costs, the company said. IBM estimates it saved US$190 million in health-related costs between 2005 and 2007 by investing $81 million in wellness programs for workers.

The lab will open next year.

IBM chose to work with Taiwan because of its healthcare system and a government pledge to provide research facilities and funding over a period up to 5 years. IBM will contribute intellectual property, hardware, software, and research staff to the project.

The company called Taiwan's healthcare system and population ideal for such a collaboration, with challenges similar to other places around the world such as an aging population.

The island is also making a major push starting in 2010 to upgrade its medical resources, part of government plans to tap into the global trend of medical tourism. Taipei is also promoting the development of IT-based medical devices as a future industry for companies on the island. Taiwan is already responsible, either through factories on the island or in China, for producing the bulk of the world's computers and many of the components inside.

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