Medical data such as patient symptoms and vitals are remotely monitored at the Bundang Seoul National University Hospital Covid19 Treatment Centre, and this information is transmitted to the professor’s computer located in the hospital in real time. Through this process, hospitals can continue to effectively update patient situations and medical findings and allocate medical services as efficiently as possible in a pandemic situation.
Telemedicine is a comprehensive concept of medical care that enables patients to obtain medical treatment through remote devices such as network monitors and medical devices without visiting hospitals and clinics directly. Telemedicine is emerging as a new growth area as the integration of healthcare and information and communication technologies (ICTs) is being accomplished worldwide.
The start of telemedicine in South Korea was the establishment of a legal basis for telemedicine system between physicians and medical staff in March 2002. A pilot project for telemedicine between physicians and patients was initiated in July 2006, but ended without results due to resistance from different interest groups and the medical community. Then, with the Covid19, the government briefly granted medical advice and prescriptions over the internet, raising social interest in telemedicine. Discussions have surfaced as industry requests for the expansion.
Recently, a U.S. research team analyzed over 3,000 cases of telemedicine, which was found to be a reliable and high-quality care tool. As a result of assessing the characteristics of telemedicine performed before and after social distancing, there was no substantial difference between age, location, initial and relapse status of the patient, medical staff and multidisciplinary treatment.
What are the advantages of telemedicine? From the government’s viewpoint, the most relevant argument will be that medical care should be equally provided in places where medical facilities or personnel are inadequate or underprivileged. Health services are of a public service nature, but many are funded by the private sector. As a result, the geographical deviation of medical institutions and staff becomes dependent upon market logic. T elemedicine is said to be a good policy move to improve access to medical care and to offer high-quality medical services to people in a medical blind spot.
There are always problems. bThese include security issues related to the confidential personal details of patients, the risk of losing business for local small and medium-sized hospitals due to the influx to the “big” hospitals, and the immense expense of implementing the system. These are the problems that people need to ponder upon and address together.
Medical care and medications not inherently requiring face-to-face treatment, even after Covid19, would be invaluable in an age of widening the reach of remote contact through the advancement of science and technology. Telemedicine should not, of course, be permitted for all diseases or symptoms. However, it can be allowed for the diseases that can be diagnosed by virtual and visual analysis via a patient’s camera, a checklist, photos of problematic areas. Distribution of various medical devices in homes will be also be required to provide remote medical treatment system in place.