Digital, bio technologies emerge as solution to narrowing regional medical gap

2023.09.21 11:16:01 | 2023.09.21 15:10:17

[Courtesy of Pixabay]이미지 확대

[Courtesy of Pixabay]

Digital and bio healthcare technologies can give rural citizens more access to medical services, according to experts.

The Community Health Innovation Center at Seoul National University’s Medical School recently discussed solutions to the medical challenge rural regions face, such as the lack of healthcare services compared with Seoul and surrounding areas.

The widening gap comes as more people move to the capital area amid the low fertility rate, aging population, and regional disparity.

“If the disparity is left unaddressed, Korea will witness the loss of half of its regions by 2030,” said Kang Dae-hee, head of the center. “Such severe centralization could pose an existential threat to the country, which is why the government, colleges, and local communities should work together.”

Limited access to health services has been the biggest problem facing residents in local areas.

According to data released by Seoul National University, which tracked deaths out of hospital admissions from 2013 to 2017, the death rate among hospitalized patients in the southeastern region in Seoul only stood at 0.83 percent.

However, the rate doubled to 1.74 percent among such patients in Yeongwol, a rural town in Gangwon Province.

Companies and hospitals have made constant efforts to use technological solutions to ensure easier access to healthcare services for rural residents and other vulnerable groups.

For example, Naver Corp has launched a chatbot service called ClovaCall, designed to support those living alone in Busan. The chatbot makes phone calls to the users to monitor their well-being and health conditions.

Major hospitals in local communities have been active in introducing digital healthcare solutions. In particular, Chonnam National University Hwasun Hospital in South Jeolla Province has ramped up its transition into a digital hospital with various innovations, such as an e-intensive care unit system and a contactless medical examination using smart beds.

“We will strive to become a world-class healthcare institution that specializes in cancer treatment while actively adopting technologies of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and robots to make healthcare services more accessible to rural citizens,” said Jeong Yong-yeon, general director of Chonnam National University Hwasun Hospital.

The hospital has achieved the highest cancer surgery rate per bed in the country after a decade of its inception.

By Shim Hee-jin and Han Yubin

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