[The Korea News] In Korea, there is an increasing demand from startups, the public, and doctors for continuing telemedicine services that the Korean government temporarily allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020.
According to the Telemedical Industry Council, out of the 38 OECD member countries, Korea is the only nation that does not permit telemedicine. Furthermore, six out of the G7 countries have legalized telemedicine for both new and existing patients.
Due to the ease of COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine services may come to an end soon. However, the future of these startups is uncertain as the legal basis for their operation will disappear when the government downgrades the COVID-19 classification from "serious" to "alert" around May. This change coincides with the World Health Organization's discussion on potentially ending the public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) status for COVID-19. As a result, the legality of telemedicine and drug delivery services may become compromised.
The Korea Startup Forum, the nation's largest startup membership organization, launched an online campaign on April 14 to obtain signatures to "protect" the current telemedicine services that are available for both new and regular patients.
Despite initial opposition from the medical community citing concerns about the potential for errors in diagnosis and drug prescriptions, around 30 telemedicine platform startups, including Doctornow, have since been providing these services to patients.