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Gov't resumes telemedicine law revision

All News 11:27 June 07, 2016

SEOUL, June 7 (Yonhap) -- The government will push ahead with a plan to revise a law in order to allow doctors to see patients and provide treatment through the use of telecommunications and information technology, government officials said Tuesday.

According to the Health and Welfare Ministry, the Cabinet approved a bill on the revision of the Medicine Law the same day to implement the practice of telemedicine 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.

The bill, however, is expected to draw a backlash from the medical industry, which has been opposed to the implementation of telemedicine. The government has revived the bill with the start of the 20th National Assembly at the end of last month. The bill was tabled as a result of opposition from the industry and opposition parties during the previous National Assembly.

Since last year, South Korea has 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 test the feasibility of the system.

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.

Under the current Medicine Law, doctors are allowed to provide medical expertise or technologies only to medical workers in remote areas.

The Seoul-based Korean Medical Association has said the bill on the medical law revision was not passed during the 19th National Assembly, and showed a great deal of concern about doctor-patient telemedicine. "Telemedicine between medical workers and patients is too early," it said.

namsh@yna.co.kr
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