Yonsei Med J.  2021 Sep;62(9):850-857. 10.3349/ymj.2021.62.9.850.

Preliminary Results of Teleconsultations Temporarily Allowed during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Affiliations
  • 1HIRA Research Institute, Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service, Wonju, Korea
  • 2Department of Family Medicine, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seongnam, Korea
  • 3Integrated Health Service Department, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 4Public Healthcare Center, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Korea
  • 5Department of Health Policy and Management, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea

Abstract

Purpose
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Korea has temporarily expanded coverage of teleconsultation to ensure access to essential health services. As a preliminary study, we investigated service utilization patterns and the characteristics of doctors and patients involved in these temporary teleconsultation services.
Materials and Methods
Using national health insurance claims data from February 23, 2020 to June 30, 2020 from the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, 228269875 cases were identified. Among them, 567390 cases that received teleconsultation services were included in our study. We performed descriptive analyses according to the types of healthcare institutions.
Results
In total, 6193 healthcare institutions provided teleconsultation. Of these, 5466 (88.3%) were clinics. Physicians providing teleconsultations were most likely to be doctors of internal medicine (34.0%) or pediatricians (7.0%) and based in the Seoul Metropolitan area (30.4%). In terms of patients undergoing teleconsultation, the most common major disease categories treated were circulatory system diseases (I00–I99). In a detailed analysis, hypertensive diseases (I10–I15) were the most common diagnoses, with a total of 88726 cases (15.6%), followed by diabetes mellitus at 60298 cases (10.6%). The proportion of Medical Aid recipients receiving teleconsultations was higher (9.5%) than other socioeconomic groups. Among all participants, 356622 cases (84.6%) were from a return visit, and 108838 cases (19.2%) received teleconsultation services without being prescribed drugs.
Conclusion
Temporarily allowed teleconsultation services were provided mostly to the following patients: 1) those scheduled for revisitation, 2) those with chronic diseases, and 3) those living in pandemic hotspots.

Keyword

SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; telemedicine; national health insurance; Korea
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