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Background

We are living in a digital era where things happen rapidly. Because of the internet, we are literally just a few "clicks" away from almost everything. Right now, the healthcare sector is also affected greatly by the internet.

Remote healthcare services — these words sum up what telemedicine means. Telemedicine uses technology to bring health services to patients wherever they are. Using everyday devices (e.g., laptops, desktops, smartphones), doctors can administer patient evaluations, treatments and follow-ups over the internet, eliminating the need for most in-person office visits.

Recently, the Ministry of Health (MOH) issued Regulation Number 20 of 2019 on Implementation of Telemedicine Services between Health Services Facilities ("MOH Regulation 20"), as the implementing regulation of MOH Regulation No. 90 of 2015 on Provision of Healthcare Services in Remote and Very Remote Areas.

Content and implications

Many healthcare professionals believe telemedicine helps them do their jobs efficiently. It lets them monitor patients' health without office visits and deliver care in less time. However, there have been no official directions from the MOH on whether healthcare professionals may provide their services through telemedicine or if there are limitations regarding this.

With MOH Regulation 20, healthcare professionals will have more clarity on the following matters relating to telemedicine:

(a) scope of telemedicine

(b) requirements

(c) rights and obligations

(d) cost

(e) funding

(f) supervision

Unfortunately, it seems that the regulation only addresses the telemedicine interaction between healthcare facilities (i.e., it is not an overarching telemedicine regulation). It remains to be seen whether this means that this is the only form of telemedicine service that is recognized or allowed by the MOH. It does not seem that the requirements under the regulation would also be applicable to healthcare professionals providing consultation services to patients directly using the internet (e.g., through chat or video call feature or through smartphone application).

All business actors must adjust to the provisions of MOH Regulation 20 within six months after the regulation was enacted.

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