The implementation of new information technology (IT) services in Korean hospitals enables patients to receive faster and more accurate diagnosis and treatment. These new IT services include the use of the Internet for remote diagnosis, teleconferencing, and the establishment of internal computer networks in some hospitals. Although these services are only in their beginning stages and some legal issues, such as the confidentiality of a patient’s medical records, have yet to be resolved, Koreans are able to benefit from these new and more technologically-advanced services and receive better and faster medical care at hospitals.
Some Korean hospitals are integrating teleconferencing systems, thereby allowing patients to have access to doctors and specialists, regardless of the patient’s location or situation. In the past, many patients were forced to travel several hours to reach the nearest hospital. Now, as rural areas become connected to urban medical centers via teleconferencing technology, patients can receive a medical diagnosis and treatment without leaving their rural towns. In addition, many small hospitals would normally send negatives or other images to larger hospitals to be processed and diagnosed, oftentimes forcing patients to wait several days for the results. But now that some hospitals have access to the Internet, digital files of negatives can be sent to a hospital, processed, and returned with the results in a matter of hours.
The Electric Medical Record System is also contributing to the increased efficiency of hospitals. This system stores a patient’s medical information, health records and previous treatment information in the hospital’s database. Therefore, hospital staff can access a patient’s medical records very quickly by using a computer, rather than searching through thousands of paper charts. This method of storing and locating medical records also allows the hospital staff to spend more time with the patient, and less time doing administrative work.
Despite the new IT services offered by Korean hospitals, standardizations and legal revisions still need to be made. For instance, the databases that many hospitals are creating to store patient’s records are not standardized among hospitals, and use different digital formats, making it very difficult to transfer a patient’s record between hospitals. Hospitals also tend to use different photo archiving data systems, making it difficult for other hospitals to read x-rays and other image files. There are also concerns about the confidentiality of a patient’s medical records after the records are transferred into digital format. Currently, a law such as the U.S. HIPAA is not present in Korea.