Most South Koreans are willing to use telemedicine again in the future, especially those living in rural towns and villages, according to a survey report commissioned by the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, an institution affiliated with the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
The said survey was carried out online by Hankook Research in September and involved around 1,700 respondents aged 19 and above. It sought to evaluate the respondents’ awareness of telemedicine services, their preferred medium, reason and intention, satisfaction, as well as their level of digital health competency.
In terms of awareness, eight in 10 respondents said they were aware that telemedicine was temporarily permitted in the country, although around the same number of participants said they have not received any promotion or education about it.
Over 70% said they either had a voice or video phone consultation; about 88% said they received online counselling and treatment within five minutes.
When asked for their reason for choosing telemedicine, over a third said it’s for convenience and due to COVID-19 isolation protocols.
It is worth noting also that 13% of the respondents had difficulty in explaining their symptoms during teleconsultations, particularly people with chronic diseases.
Overall, six in 10 respondents were satisfied with their experience and 88% said they are willing to use telemedicine in the future. The survey revealed that people living in rural towns and villages with lesser access to healthcare are more willing to try telemedicine again than those living in major cities.
In their future use, the respondents said they would like to see the inclusion of home or portable health monitoring devices, the use of real-time medical information, and access to online reservation and collection.
Regarding their level of digital health competency, many are found to be capable of searching for health information and using it to practice a healthy lifestyle while there is low competency in using health information for disease and health management.
The survey also found that female participants have a higher ability to search for health information than males, although the latter showed a higher ability to assess the reliability of available health information and use health management tools.
Those who were found to have a high digital health competency felt more confident explaining their symptoms via voice or video consultations. They also tend to use other hospital services such as accessing health information, online reservation and payment.
WHY IT MATTERS
According to KHIDI, the survey results indicate the need for governmental support policies to strengthen patients’ digital health capacities as the broader South Korean health system is pursuing digital transformation. The Samsung Medical Center, for example, has been leading the pact in digital transformation, having proved its superiority in EMR technology and infrastructure after gaining validations for HIMSS Digital Maturity models.
THE LARGER TREND
A recently commissioned global study by Zoom seems to suggest a different future for healthcare: most telemedicine users during the pandemic are now preferring a hybrid mode of care post-COVID-19.