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Park calls for parliamentary passage of bill on telemedicine

All Headlines 18:40 March 08, 2016

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye called on parliament Tuesday to approve a bill that would allow doctors to see patients and provide treatment through the Internet.

Telemedicine is designed to provide quality health care for those in hard-to-access areas and for the elderly by connecting patients to doctors using information technology, usually over the Internet.

Park called on officials to expand a pilot program for telemedicine to elderly people in remote areas and to spread public awareness on telemedicine as part of efforts to provide an impetus to influence lawmakers to pass the bill.

"Telemedicine is meant to address the blind spot of health care for those who live on remote islands and for the elderly and disabled," Park said in a meeting of officials.

Last year, South Korea launched a telemedicine pilot program for people on five remote islands, prison inmates, sailors of deep-sea fishing vessels and soldiers near the border with North Korea to check the feasibility of the system, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The ministry estimated that the number of recipients of telemedicine could reach some 1.08 million people.

South Korea has 470 islands where people live, though there is a chronic shortage of doctors on those islands.

Kim Yang-geun, a 58-year-old fisherman on Godae Island in the country's western coast, said he has benefited from telemedicine, which was introduced to his island last year through the pilot program.

"Telemedicine helped me a lot and I hope that it will be formally introduced,”Kim spoke by phone from the island, saying that telemedicine allowed him to see a doctor in a major city for treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure without having to travel to the mainland by ship.

The East Asian country has 2.2 doctors per 1,000 people as of 2013, compared with an average of 3.3 for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of 34 developed market economies with high incomes.

entropy@yna.co.kr
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