South Korean internet giant Naver Corp. pushed its telemedicine experiment in Japan to a new level as remote doctor-patient care remains outlawed in Korea due to strong protests from medical society.
LINE, Naver’s Tokyo-based messenger app operator, will release a new mobile app this summer to support a video chat between doctor and patient through its subsidiary LINE Healthcare, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported on Thursday.
LINE Healthcare is a joint venture established together with Sony’s medical platform firm M3 in Tokyo. The JV aims to become an optimal healthcare platform by offering remote healthcare and medical counseling, online care, and delivery of prescription medicines, which are banned in Korea due to regulations.
Since its launch in January last year, LINE Healthcare has provided messenger-based remote health counseling on a pilot basis. Since February when COVID-19 began spreading in the world, it has offered free ‘Ask Doctors’ counseling services.
LINE said a dedicated mobile app will be released to expand messenger-based remote counseling to a video-based service, but it is still undetermined whether the app will replace the existing chat-based healthcare service. LINE has yet to finalize its monetization model for telemedicine business.
About 2,000 medical doctors are expected to join the telehealth service through mobile messenger LINE whose monthly active users near 80 million.
M3 has 270,000 doctors and 160,000 pharmacists as members. Medical expenses can be paid through LINE’s mobile payment platform LINE Pay.
Japan introduced remote medicine in 2015 to raise convenience for elderly patients, whereas Korea is still in the phase of pilot projects.
By Chung Wook, Oh Dae-seok and Minu Kim
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