South Korean internet giant Naver Corp. has launched remote healthcare services in Japan to help patients avail consultation, prescription, and payment without visiting a healthcare facility to try its hand in telemedicine that remains virtually banned on home turf.
LINE, Naver’s Tokyo-based messenger app operator, announced on Thursday that its telemedicine service LINE Doctor is now available with partner hospitals and clinics near Tokyo through its joint venture Line Healthcare.
Users can make reservations and payment and receive video consultations over the LINE app.
Booking a doctor’s appointment is possible when a user enters information on payment method, health insurance card, and health status. Payment is made automatically after the consultation is completed, and the doctor`s prescription is also delivered from hospital to home.
`Basic Plan` subscribers can use LINE Doctor for free without a monthly fee, the company said.
This service is based on healthcare professional members of its joint venture m3.com. About 90 percent of registered medical doctors are now involved in the program. The number of pharmacist members amounts to 190,000.
Remote doctoring is outlawed in Korea due to strong protests from medical society. Korean patients can book their time slots and make payment, but they have to visit their doctor physically.
The government has tried to revise the current medical affairs act to legalize telemedicine, but its attempts face strong opposition from individual practitioners and civic groups.
The medical community argues that such policy for telemedicine will only benefit large hospitals and private companies and insurers while the service is less stable medically. For this reason, it is difficult to introduce telemedicine in metro areas. Pilot projects have been conducted for remote island and coastal areas.
Startup Goodoc is temporarily operating telemedicine such as telephone counseling and prescriptions for some hospitals designated by the government after a rapid increase in confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the end of February this year.
But its service is limited to finding which hospitals want to consult patients by phone and to facilitate remote consulting between doctor and patient. Some have exported telemedicine solutions but most of them are not available in Korea.
By Lee Dong-in and Minu Kim
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]