South Korean president Park Geun-hye has indicated that the telehealth market could become a new growth engine for the country’s economy, according to a report from Shanghai Daily.
Returning from a trip to India and Switzerland, Park is reported to have said that remote healthcare could represent one of several future opportunities for South Korea’s economy in a discussion with senior presidential secretaries.
Park said she had been in talks with the chief executives of global companies at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and all had emphasized to her the potential of the telehealth industry.
She also appears to have recognized that legacy healthcare systems are not capable of meeting the growing demand for services among South Korea’s ageing population.
According to the Shanghai Daily report, South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare has said on its website that it will pursue telehealth initiatives in remote regions and with elderly and disabled people, noting that such groups have difficulty visiting doctors and would clearly benefit from remote examination and treatment.
Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry’s three-year economic plan – unveiled in mid-January – cited the healthcare sector as one of five service industries that would receive support.
Government support for telehealth could also help industrial giant Samsung Electronics (Seoul) to become a key player in the global market.
The company has already made moves in the telehealth area with the launch of new wearable devices and is reportedly planning to spend about $22 billion into five new growth areas – including biomedicine and medical equipment – between now and 2020.
“To make our companies play an active part in the global [telehealth] market with great potential, we should make them play a big part in the domestic market first," Park is quoted as saying by Shanghai Daily.
State support is already credited with helping Samsung to become one of the world’s leading IT companies.