In an innovative leap, South Korea is testing a ground-breaking concept that fosters collaboration between health professionals across various medical institutions.
The Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) and the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) have launched a pilot project to establish an ‘efficient and sustainable’ remote collaboration system. Three notable hospitals have been chosen for this ambitious endeavour. They are Gachon University Gil Hospital in Incheon, Pusan National University (PNU) Yangsan Hospital in South Gyeongsang, and Hallym University Dongtan Sacred Heart Hospital in Gyeonggi. In this collaboration, the hospitals will be piloting a remote collaboration approach where doctors across different hospitals work together in a remote capacity to manage the same cases.
Transformative Tech Strategies
Gil Hospital and PNU Yangsan Hospital will employ an independent (portal) type system. Meanwhile, Dongtan Sacred Heart Hospital will utilise a VPN-connection type and medical information exchange system. This strategic approach aims to create remote collaboration networks over the next seven months. Gil Hospital will collaborate with 12 nursing hospitals in Incheon, PNU Yangsan Hospital with two rehabilitation hospitals in Busan, and Dongtan with three regional medical centres and 12 partner hospitals in Gyeonggi.
Enhancing Quality of Medical Services
Such remote collaborations have the potential to enhance the quality of medical services. Also, it could reduce unnecessary hospital transfers and bridge the gap in medical resources at small and medium-sized health facilities. It is supported by The South Korean Ministry of Health. The requirement is straightforward – secure the patient’s consent for remote consultation with health professionals from other medical institutions if needed.
The KHIDI initially tested the standards of a remote consultation system last year. Dongtan Sacred Heart and Hospital and National Health Insurance Service Ilsan Hospital pioneered the first remote collaboration network with six small and medium-sized hospitals and 24 medical departments. The system proved to be effective in managing resource vacancies and shortages in smaller hospitals. Additionally, it also enabled efficient patient monitoring and follow-up management after discharge.
South Korea is also seeking to launch a telemedicine pilot programme, primarily for patients returning for follow-up visits. Temporarily allowed from 2020 through April this year, the telemedicine services have already benefited 1,419 patients. This initiative aims to provide quality healthcare to individuals who reside in hard-to-reach areas or are unable to visit clinics due to physical illness or infectious diseases.
The Promise of Progress
Finally, the potential of remote collaboration systems to enhance patient convenience and medical quality is undeniable. However, there may be limitations in some types of remote collaboration systems. Through this pilot project, the aim is to secure various best practices and analyse their safety and effectiveness. South Korea’s commitment to this venture promises a significant leap towards a more interconnected and efficient healthcare system, particularly beneficial to the Asia region.