Telehealth market push in South Korea

The push for telehealth market expansion will help the country’s IT companies to be ‘reinvented’ as healthcare giants
By Dillan Yogendra
07:55 AM

Park Geun-hye, South Korean President, has confirmed her wish to foster the telehealth market as a new growth engine in her country. “The recent overseas trip [to India and Switzerland] provided me with a great opportunity to think about the future direction, to which our economy should go amid the rapidly-changing world economy. One of them was a remote healthcare,” Park said during a meeting with senior presidential secretaries on Monday.

Park returned home last week after a trip to India and Switzerland. While in Switzerland, she visited Davos to participate in the annual World Economic Forum.

It was reported that current healthcare systems in Korea, which depend solely on face-to-face diagnosis and treatment, cannot address exponentially growing demand for healthcare services amid the longer lifespan and aging population.

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The Ministry of Health and Welfare said on its website that telehealth will be pushed ahead usually within town hospitals, noting that people living in islands and mountains and the elderly and disabled who have troubles in seeing a doctor will benefit from the remote examination and treatment.

The Finance Ministry unveiled the three-year economic restructuring plan in mid-January, which included the plan to nurture five promising service industries, including the healthcare sector.

The push for telehealth market expansion will help the country’s IT companies to be ‘reinvented’ as healthcare giants, for example Samsung is expected to push for a convergence between its main IT sector and the healthcare business.

Under the ten-year scheme, the country's largest conglomerate plans to inject 23.3 trillion won (~US$22 billion) by 2020 into five new growth businesses, including biomedicine and medical equipment.

President Park said that healthcare services should be converted to telehealth by the use of the information and communication technology (ICT) to enhance access to hospitals for those who live remotely. “It gives a great implication to us, the IT powerhouse. To make our companies play an active part in the global (telehealth) market with great potential, we should make them play a big part in the domestic market first”.

Revenue in the global telehealth market is expected to be in the region of US$4.5 billion by 2018, increasing by a factor of more than ten compared with the US$440.6 million during the past calendar year, according to market researcher IHS Technology.

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