Doctor-patient telemedicine allowed as 1st step of Moon’s regulation-free zones

Kwak Sung-sun  Published 2019.07.24  18:02  Updated 2019.07.24 18:02


- Gangwon Province to push for telemedicine between chronic patients and primary medical institutions

Telemedicine between doctors and patients will be allowed in Gangwon Province, targeting chronic patients with treatment records and primary medical institutions.

The Ministry of SMEs and Startups said Wednesday that it would launch regulation-free special zones in seven provinces and cities -- Gangwon, South Jeolla, North Chungcheong and North Gyeongsang provinces plus Busan, Daegu and Sejong cities – where it tests innovative technologies and fosters related businesses extensively.

In the seven zones, industrialists will have the opportunities to develop new technology and jump into new businesses free from regulatory restrictions. The government will apply 58 regulatory exceptions, including nine “menu-style exceptions, to the seven regulation-free zones.

Especially noteworthy is the permission of telemedicine between doctors and patients, which is likely to cause backlash from the medical community and civic groups.

Gangwon Province will benefit from the exception, as it was designated as a special zone responsible for testing digital healthcare. Primary medical institutions there will be able to remotely conduct monitoring and provide outpatient information, counsels, education, diagnosis and prescription 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.

“It is significant progress in that the measure will provide an opportunity for private medical institutions to experience the entire process of telemedicine,” the ministry said. “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.”

Daegu, designated to carry out smart wellness project, will start a program to share the manufacturing infrastructure of medical equipment. The government will relax the current regulation that mandates makers to have medical equipment manufacturing facilities, allowing the operation of a joint manufacturing plant using 3D printers, for the first time in the world.

“The measure will allow medical startups to create new business models, as it lessens their financial burden from equipment purchase, which had worked as an entry barrier in high-tech medical device sector,” the ministry explained in a news release.

Also, the ministry will strengthen support for companies to help them produce results in the seven special zones.

To support regional businesses, universities and research institutions, it will provide R&D funds, help them upgrade pilot products, secure patents, and marketing routes at home and abroad as well as offer tax benefits for the zones to attract companies and invigorate investment.

It will also establish and operate the “comprehensive control system of regulation-free special zones,” which will manage all related matters ranging from the application for a special zone to introducing regulatory sandbox, to fine-tune the project.

Besides, the ministry plans to make it mandatory for businesses in the zone to subscribe to liability insurance to prepare for possible accidents, and to subsidize part of the required expenses.

“As there is no sky for birds trapped in cages, there will be no innovations if businesses are trapped in regulations. The government took the first step today for regulation-free special zones which will resolve regulations on new industries and promote the regional economies through financial support,” Minister of SME and Startups Park Young-sun said.
Success doesn’t come overnight, so the government will take the lessons learned from the first project to speed up innovation, she added.

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