Digital Healthcare Opens New Possibilities for Patients
LG Electronics, KT, Naver, Kakao, and other Korean companies are entering the world of digital healthcare. As the importance of healthcare is highlighted by COVID-19, officials warn that companies are rushing into telemedicine because the digitalization of healthcare is seen as a lucrative opportunity. In particular, the advantages of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and data analysis have the power to significantly impact telemedicine.
"Providing customized services to customers has become important in the healthcare business. Information Technology (IT) companies focusing on data processing and analysis are energetically entering this market," an official from a local telecommunications company said, requesting anonymity.
Data showed that the digital healthcare market is forecast to increase rapidly with the development of data processing technology. The Korea International Trade Association said that the global digital healthcare market, which was at the scale of $106.3 billion in 2019, is expected to grow sixfold to 639 billion by 2026.
Digital Healthcare in Practice: LG
LG Electronics expressed its willingness to pursue the digital healthcare business, as the company has added the manufacture and sale of medical devices to its articles of association. Since 2020, the company has released a series of digital healthcare gadgets, such as the Pra.L Medi Hair that supports hair growth and slows down male pattern balding using lasers and LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights.
Local Competitive Giants Compete: Naver and Kakao
Local internet portal giant Naver uses its hospital as a testbed for digital healthcare business. It's office building in Gyeonggi Province, there is a hospital serving its employees. When treating employees, the hospital uses a type of AI technology called Clova Healthcare to record medical examinations.
Using technology, patients can see the results of past examinations immediately. Choi Soo-yeon, the CEO of the company, told reporters that the company’s hospital has doctors specializing in various fields to care for the health of the hospital's employees. "We want to use it to pilot new healthcare technology—for the benefit of patients today and tomorrow. We create solutions, such as preliminary interview and health examination analysis," Choi said.
Another big tech firm, Kakao, is also entering the digital healthcare business. The company already established a subsidiary for the business in December 2021 and appointed Hwang Hee, a professor of pediatrics at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, as the head. Based on Kakao's digital capabilities and user service experience, the healthcare subsidiary plans to offer health management services to clients. Telecommunications companies are also showing enthusiasm for the digital healthcare business as part of their efforts to find new opportunities.
The Overseas Pioneer: KT
Among the three major mobile carriers here, KT is the most active in this sector. The company recently signed an agreement with Hanoi Medical University in Vietnam to provide pilot telemedicine services for chronically ill patients. By launching the pilot program before the end of this year, the Korean company aims to expand its digital healthcare business in Southeast Asia. Ko Hun-seok, a project manager at KT's Digital and Bio Health Business Department, said the company forged a partnership with a Vietnamese hospital to improve its capabilities in the telemedicine sector, as certain telemedicine services are prohibited in Korea due to regulations. "Some overseas digital healthcare companies are just passing the Korean market due to regulations on telemedicine. Unlike Korea, Vietnam has no regulations on additional services such as drug prescriptions and delivery," he said.
Source: Baek Byung-yeul from The Korea Times
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