【MHLW】 Proposed lifting a ban on telemedicine in principle – Started discussion for making it permanent

2020年11月04日 (水)

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) started discussions on making online medical care, including initial consultations, permanent at “Investigating Committee on Reviewing Guidelines on the Proper Application of Online Medical Care” held on November 2, 2020. The MHLW offered a proposal to require video consultation methods such as video communication in online medical care including initial consultations. The direction of limiting online medical care to that provided by family physicians will also be discussed from the next meeting onward. By the end of this year, the direction of the diseases and symptoms appropriate for online medical care will be compiled.

Every three months, the committee has been checking the operation status of the special measures to allow online medical care from the initial consultation after the spread of the new coronavirus and determining whether or not to continue the measures. In response to the government’s policy of making online medical care permanent, the committee decided to expand the scope of discussion to the future direction after the spread of the new coronavirus is contained, and three new members have joined the committee from this meeting.

At the meeting on November 2, it was approved to extend the special measures for online medical care which have addressed the new coronavirus infection by three months. Meanwhile, the MHLW proposed the direction to lift the ban on online medical care including initial consultations, in principle, after containment of the new coronavirus infection.

The proposal by the MHLW requires availability of a video online medical care system such as video communication when treating a patient since the amount of information that can be collected via telephone is limited. The proposal also clearly states that when implementing online medical care, the convenience of online medical care for patients, the risk of missing or progression of a disease due to not having face-to-face medical care, and the risk of troubles between the patient and the medical institution will be comprehensively considered.__

A committee member made a comment which is cautious about the direction of across-the-board lifting of ban on online initial consultations from the standpoint of safety, saying “Since some diseases need face-to-face medical care, we should study the diseases and symptoms that are appropriate for online medical care.” There is also a comment saying “Publicity is also necessary to prevent a disparity in access to online medical care” given that many elderly people are not able to use online medical apps. In the future, the committee will summarize the issues and finalize the direction by the end of this year. It will also consider reviewing the guidelines for online medical care.

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