SEOUL, July 1 (Yonhap) — South Korea is taking steps to provide telemedicine services to overseas South Korean construction workers amid heightened health concerns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the infrastructure ministry said Wednesday.
The move is part of a broader effort to better protect South Korean builders, as 87 have tested positive for COVID-19 and three have died after contracting the highly infectious disease, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said.
There are estimated to be around 7,300 South Korean builders working in foreign countries at present.
Online medical care is part of a regulatory sandbox program being pushed by the industry ministry that aims to offer online health care service to South Koreans living abroad, it said.
A regulatory sandbox allows for small-scale testing of innovations in a controlled environment without changing existing rules. South Korean doctors have strongly opposed telemedicine in the country.
Inha University Hospital, in cooperation with online medical platform provider Life Semantics, already secured a two-year permit last month to give “untact checkups” to overseas South Koreans.
Life Semantics has also formed a consortium with Seoul National Hospital, Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital and Asan Medical Center to advance online medicine.
The infrastructure ministry said construction workers can use the special platform to report their symptoms. The information will then be forwarded to local hospitals that can give a diagnosis. Workers can even ask for a prescription issued by local doctors.
It said the telemedicine system can facilitate talks to be carried out between companies and foreign governments in the event that a worker who has contracted COVID-19 needs to be evacuated for treatment in South Korea.