South Korea's government plans to introduce telemedicine in free economic zones (FEZ) within the country to attract more foreign investors.
Kim Jae-hong, vice minister of trade, industry and energy said the government will use FEZs as testbeds for new healthcare services, such as telemedicine. This is the provision of healthcare or medical information and services through communication networks such as telephone and broadband lines, The Korea Times reported Wednesday.
"We are seeking to develop a new market in the healthcare sector to help people save time and cost in getting related services," Kim said in the report.
The move comes after the government's efforts to attract foreign hospitals to FEZs fell through, it noted. FEZs are specially designated economic zones intended to encourage foreign investment by improving the living and management environment for foreign-invested firms and by implemnting deregulation to increase enterprise activities and provide investment incentives, according to its Web site.
With telemedicine as an option, though, this would allow imedical tourists to receive healthcare services from doctors based in their home countries and, with it, more investment opportunities.
Of the eight FEZs in the country, the ministry said Songdo, a district close to South Korea's Incheon International Airport, is likely to be the first place to test integrated services for medical care, IT and tourism.
Industry watchers previously told ZDNet there should be standards and regulations to create ubiquity for telemedicine along with greater public-private support. While telemedicine has been in the healthcare industry for more than a decade with proven benefits, several hurdles prevent further adoption such as the lack of access, awareness and legal understanding.