The South Korean government is attempting a push to the long-delayed liberalization in telemedicine, a sector Korea lags even behind China, despite stoking inevitable violent clash with doctors.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare in its outline for its policy direction this year expressed will to enable telemedicine to facilitate medical care for people in remote regions and confined to homes.
It will renew campaign to push for revision in the basic medical act to allow ‘Smart Care’, or a remote access to medical services for patients in vulnerable areas such as farming and fishing villages, ocean-going ship crew, prisoners and warfighters.
Since 2006, the government had attempted to introduce telemedicine which it believes improve patient access to public medical services in isolated areas and create a new growth engine in tech-enabled Korea. It has recently highlighted the need of telemedicine to narrow the gap with other countries and to carry out its deregulatory agenda.
But no progress has so far been made in implementation in the face of strong opposition from doctors. The Korea Medical Association, the main interest group for doctors nationwide, argues that doctor-to-patient telemedicine will deepen patient concentration at large hospitals, negatively affecting profitability and service quality at smaller hospitals, and may put patient information at risk.
The long-standing dispute and delayed legislations have led many telemedicine equipment and services providers to take their innovations overseas.
By Seo Jin-woo and Minu Kim
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]