[Photo by Yonhap]
A slew of regulations on telemedicine services in South Korea has forced local providers of remote healthcare services to explore opportunities in alternative domains, such as genetic testing and healthcare supplements.
According to the data released by the Korea Telemedicine Industry Council, a lobby group for telehealth platforms, on Thursday, remote healthcare treatment available for specific vulnerable groups of patients, including those aged 65 and older with mobility difficulties and residents in rural areas and islands, saw a decline in demand, with less than four patients per day as of September.
The figure is only 0.1 percent of the 3,290 patients registered in May before the government launched a remote healthcare pilot program.
The pilot program, which began on June 1, has reduced the eligibility of patients for telemedicine by putting a limit on universal remote healthcare services that were offered during the three years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In response, telemedicine providers have started to find alternative business opportunities.
DoctorNow Inc., for example, developed a real-time medical consultation platform in which users submit health-related inquiries and get answers from healthcare professionals within five minutes.
The platform allows users to seek immediate help from doctors at no cost and at any time.
The service covers a broad spectrum of 14 symptom categories, such as colds, skin conditions, and mental health, while offering access to 20 medical specialties, including internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and urology.
“We have seen stable growth with record high 200,000 questions submitted so far by users in recent days,” said a representative official from DoctorNow.
In collaboration with hy Co., DocterNow also launched DoctorEats last month, a health supplement recommendation service.
The subscription service recommends to users the optimal supplement choices based on results from in-person consultations with clinicians.
DoctorEats is the first example of health supplement businesses directly involving healthcare professionals.
Another service provider of remote healthcare Merakiplace Inc. has recently made a foray into the domain of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing after it partnered with domestic biotech firm Macrogen, Inc. in September.
At 1 p.m. every day, its telemedicine app MyDoctor provides complimentary genetic testing opportunities in four categories ? weight, sleep, skin, and hair loss.
“Within just three weeks of introducing this service, we had over 20,000 participants,” the developer said. “Furthermore, we also provide additional services, like a digital pace counter app, which has recently seen explosive growth.”
Merakiplace rolled out a broker platform for face-to-face healthcare, enabling users to make appointments on the app.
According to the provider, user growth has increased by 160 percent on a weekly basis. One of the service’s advantages is that it provides pricing information for services not covered by insurance.
Gooddoc, a healthcare app provider, has been focusing on increasing its partner healthcare institutions and advancing the quality of services. Its average monthly users are about 1.5 million.
By Shim Hee-jin and Han Yubin
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