The South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare has gone on to release its report on the temporary telemedicine conduct during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As per the report, more than 25,000 medical institutions went on to provide remote treatment to 13.70 million people between February 2020 and January 2023. Of the 36.61 million treatments that were administered through telehealth, most—29.25 million to be precise—were home treatments specifically for COVID-19 cases, whereas around 1.36 million cases were first-time visits, and 5.14 million got their prescriptions through consultations.
The report also pointed out the fact that most of the telemedicine services were conducted through the neighbourhood telemedicine clinics, which accounted for 93.6% of all the participating healthcare providers and 86.2% of the recorded treatments. Apparently, large hospitals initially raised concerns about shouldering most of the telemedicine demand, but that wasn’t the case at all, as confirmed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Besides, the report also found that there was a high uptake of telemedicine among the elderly and those suffering from chronic ailments. Most of the telehealth treatments were provided to senior folks who were aged 60 and above. The treatment was mostly considered for individuals who were suffering from hypertension, diabetes, as well as acute bronchitis.
Apart from this, there was an increased adherence to prescription drugs in patients who had chronic diseases by way of the temporary implementation of telemedicine in 2020. The MOHW said that through this study, it was indeed confirmed that non-face-to-face treatment can play a part to some extent in enhancing health by way of improving prescription continuity for the elderly.
As a matter of fact, the South Korean government temporarily gave permission to conduct telemedicine in February 2020 so as to restrict mobility and stall the COVID-19 infection spread.
Due to the positive outcomes, the MOHW has now called for institutionalizing telemedicine by way of revising the related provisions when it comes to the country’s Medical Service Act. Notably, the government recently went on to recognize the Korean Medical Association’s proposal in order to make telemedicine a permanent supplement for healthcare services that happen to be face-to-face.
The MOHW also went on to share from this survey that most of the patients who had received prescriptions on the phone confirmed that they were willing to go ahead with this service in the future as well. The major reasons for the telemedicine inclination were being safe from contracting infectious diseases and also saving time. It is well to be noted that in yet another survey, which was conducted by the Korea Health Industry Development Institute in October last year, the same willingness to go ahead with telemedicine was noted. Park Min-soo, the Second Vice Minister of Health and Welfare, noted that they are able to confirm the safety as well as effectiveness of non-face-to-face treatment and are in fact able to allay concerns when it comes to the high concentration of demand for telemedicine across large hospital setups.
He added that, when it comes to telemedicine, the patients’ right to choose and access medical care as well as the professionalism of medical personnel are respected. The ministry has allowed the usage of supplementary devices in order to make sure that both medical personnel and patients can use telemedicine as effectively as possible.