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Telemedicine pilot program kicks off for disabled

All Headlines 10:57 September 01, 2016

SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) -- A pilot program connecting doctors with disabled patients through the use of information and telecommunications technology kicked off on Thursday, South Korea's health ministry said

Under the program pushed forward by the Health and Welfare Ministry, doctors will see a total of 150 patients to provide treatment and fill out prescriptions through the Internet.

The program will involve the patients, including those in welfare and other facilities, and two hospitals, officials said.

"Disabled people are the ones who need telemedicine the most as they have difficulty in receiving medical treatment," said a ministry official.

For the disable patients with severe conditions, nurses will visit their houses periodically and report back to doctors of their condition.

Last year, the ministry launched a similar pilot program for people in rural areas, mostly islands, correctional facilities, sailors of deep-sea fishing vessels and soldiers near the border with North Korea to test the feasibility of the system.

The move is part of the Seoul government's efforts to prepare a package of measures to support the moves by local hospitals to provide telemedicine services to overseas markets.

The program, however, faces strong opposition from the medical industry which has been opposed to the full-fledged implementation of telemedicine.

Doctors argue that the new system could make it easier for patients to reach large hospitals, eventually hurting smaller clinics in their neighborhood. They further say the system will eventually reduce their income.

Despite the government's push to expand the system, a revision to the relevant law has been pending in the National Assembly for the last decade.

Under the current Medicine Law, doctors are only allowed to provide medical services or technologies to other health professionals through the telecommunications technology.

khj@yna.co.kr
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