Government and industry officials from Korea and Peru gathered for the 5th Korea-LAC Business Summit to discuss their progress in the field of telemedicine, at the Silla Hotel in Seoul, Tuesday.
|Liliana Ma Cardenas, director-general of the Telehealth Division of the Peruvian Ministry of Health, explains her country’s telemedicine system, during the 5th Korea-LAC Business Summit held at Shilla Hotel Seoul, Tuesday.|
Liliana Ma Cardenas, director-general of the Telehealth Division of the Peruvian Ministry of Health, led the first session about telemedicine in Peru.
"While the country has had a long history in telemedicine in the private sector, it was not until March 2017 that the Peruvian government set up a telehealth division to care for its citizens better," Cardenas said. "Since then, our division has built a telemedicine system at more than 1,300 medical institutions and made more than 21,000 diagnoses through the system."
Cardenas noted that the Peruvian government took an interest in telemedicine as it best suited the country's complex public health service.
"Peru is a country that has a wide shoreline with the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountain that runs along with the country inland," Cardenas said. "While those living near the ocean and large metropolitan areas were equipped well to receive good medical treatment, it was hard to treat those who lived in or near the mountains."
There was also a lack of doctors, which led to the big gap in the medical quality gap between the big cities and the mountainous regions, she noted. “That explains why Peru turned to telemedicine to solve the problem,” she said.
Two years have passed since the establishment of the division, and the Latin American country has seen the medical quality gap between big cities and mountainous regions narrow while managing to reduce the flow of patients visiting major general hospitals by 80 percent.
"The decrease in patients at the major general hospitals allowed those institutions to treat only patients who needed the treatment in the best conditions," Cardenas said. "The telemedicine also helped us reduce spending as it managed to prevent patients who lived in suburban areas from traveling long distances for minor diseases."
All telemedicine diagnosis is also reimbursed under the nation's insurance program, she explained, stressing that Peru still wants to expand the system and introduce hi-tech technology to give easier access for patients and doctors alike.
"We would like to cooperate with Korea in this field," she said. "There are already many pilot programs with Korea, including a program to develop telemedicine related software."
Once completed, the government plans to distribute the system throughout the country to serve the patients better, she added.
In contrast to Peru, Korea, which has the necessary technology to implement telemedicine, has yet to establish a system as effective as Peru.
|Oh Yu-mi, director of Korea's Health Promotion Institute, talks about the benefits of Korea's mobile healthcare service in preventing chronic diseases, at the same forum.|
Oh Yu-mi, director of Health Promotion Institute, took Korea's mobile healthcare service at public healthcare centers as an example.
"Public health centers in Korea is working to promote people's health and has recently focused more on the prevention and management of chronic disease," Oh said. "We started the mobile healthcare service to resolve the limits of face-to-face services as it makes it hard for the public to visit such centers because of time, distance, and accessibility."
As there is a rapid increase in smartphones and wearable devices in the country, the ministry believed that they were efficient tools for promoting public healthcare, she said.
However, the program Oh mentioned is focusing more on preventing chronic illnesses by providing lifestyle changes that can cause them. It cannot provide diagnosis or prescribe medication.
As of now, Korea is still conducting a pilot program to check the feasibility of telemedicine due to severe backlash from the medical community and civic groups.
While not discussed during the conference, the telemedicine pilot program in Gangwon Province has targeted chronic patients with treatment records and primary medical institutions since July.
Primary medical institutions there will be able to conduct monitoring and provide outpatient information, counsels, education, diagnoses, and prescriptions for those with treatment records among chronic patients residing in remote areas.
However, it annexed a requirement -- a nurse has to be present by the patient when the doctor remotely diagnoses the patient and makes prescriptions.
While the project is too early on its stages to have processed results, the ministry believed that it was significant progress, which provides an opportunity for private medical institutions to experience the entire process of telemedicine.
"The latest decision will allow patients in remote areas to receive counsels and education from doctors and permit physicians to monitor and manage patients continuously, helping to remove the blind spots of healthcare, enhance public health and develop medical technology."
However, the project is still met with skeptical views from local physicians, who believe telemedicine makes it challenging to identify the health status of a patient accurately.
A recent survey conducted by Intermd, an online site for sharing information among physicians, surveyed 507 doctors and found that 61.4 percent of them were against the idea of using information technology to provide healthcare at a distance.
<© Korea Biomedical Review, All rights reserved.>