Emergency ministerial meeting on economic affairs [Photo by Yonhap]
The South Korean government is prioritizing remote medical treatment for overseas Koreans, as it plans an amendment to the Medical Service Act allowing overseas Koreans to receive remote consultations. The government also plans to expand the scope to include domestic citizens, who currently are only allowed remote consultations for follow-up visits, to cover initial visits by the end of 2023. But given the opposition from the medical community to the expansion of remote consultations, there will be difficulties until the final implementation.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance announced these and other innovative measures for new industries during an emergency ministerial meeting on economic affairs on Monday. The government plans to carry out pilot projects for remote medical consultations by reflecting opinions from various sectors.
Currently, initial consultations are only available to patients who are returning to medical centers at the clinic level, those in rural areas, and those with disabilities. The government’s proposed amendment to the Medical Service Act is to add overseas Koreans to the list of those who can receive initial remote consultations, targeting those living abroad or holding dual citizenship.
Overseas Koreans are currently able to receive remote consultations only for follow-up visits through the regulatory sandbox, a system that exempts or suspends existing regulations for a certain period. It is reported that the government made the decision on the belief that institutionalizing remote consultations for overseas Koreans would not pose a problem.
Under the current Medical Service Act, remote consultations between doctors and patients are prohibited in principle but are conditionally allowed via pilot projects.
There have been calls for improve these pilot projects, as 3,786 remote consultations were conducted for 14.19 million people from February 2020, as Covid-19 became a pandemic, to May 2023, with 87 percent of clinic-level medical institutions participating in remote consultations during the period.
It is highly likely that the latest pilot projects will focus on expanding the scope of initial remote consultations, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare is expected to announce the relevant measures soon.
The innovation plan also includes clarifying non-medical criteria to foster the healthcare service industry. Guidelines and case studies will be used to determine whether newly created health services fall under the category of ‘medical acts’ that only medical professionals can perform, and the scope of services not included in medical acts will be expanded to allow a variety of health management services using digital devices.
The government also announced regulatory improvement measures to foster industries in the carbon-free and energy environment sector. It will consider expanding tax benefits by designating low-carbon aviation fuel-related technologies as new growth and source technologies under the Act on Restriction on Special Cases Concerning Taxation, as well as reflecting the use of domestically produced equipment in the evaluation of public institutions and power generation companies. The plan also includes relaxing separation distance requirements, which act as an obstacle to the repowering (performance improvement) of aging solar and wind facilities and supporting the entry of carbon capture-related companies into industrial complexes.
By Lee Hee-jo, Lee Yoon-sik, and Yoon Yeon-hae
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