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KT targets Vietnam's digital healthcare market

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Ko Hun-seok, left, a project manager at KT's Digital and Bio Health Business Department, and Yim Seung-hyouk, second from left, senior vice president of KT, pose with Le Thi Huong, center, dean of the Institute for Preventive Medicine and Public Health at Hanoi Medical University, and other staff of the school after signing an agreement at Hanoi Medical University in Vietnam, Wednesday. Courtesy of KT
Ko Hun-seok, left, a project manager at KT's Digital and Bio Health Business Department, and Yim Seung-hyouk, second from left, senior vice president of KT, pose with Le Thi Huong, center, dean of the Institute for Preventive Medicine and Public Health at Hanoi Medical University, and other staff of the school after signing an agreement at Hanoi Medical University in Vietnam, Wednesday. Courtesy of KT

By Baek Byung-yeul

KT plans to expand its digital healthcare business to Vietnam. Using the Southeast Asian country as a bridgehead, the company also aims to expand its operations to other countries in the region, the mobile carrier said, Wednesday.

The company said it signed an agreement with Hanoi Medical University in Vietnam to offer pilot telemedicine services for chronically-ill patients. The agreement includes the development of chronic disease management services, joint research on artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the medical sector and training of Vietnamese medical staff.

Based on the cooperation, KT will launch a pilot telemedicine platform service there by the end of this year. To provide quality service, the mobile carrier will hold additional meetings with decision makers there from various sectors such as state-run agencies, pharmaceutical companies and medical-related IT companies.

"KT saw this year as the best time to advance into Vietnam, given that interest in health and medical care has increased due to the spread of COVID-19. In Vietnam, demand for professional medical services has increased as the proportion of the middle class has increased, and increasing spending on medicine and medical services is also considered to have contributed to the decision to start the business," the company said.

KT and Hanoi Medical University are also conducting joint research on medical AI technologies. KT is in charge of analyzing AI algorithms. Their research will be based on early Alzheimer's diagnosis technology by a research team at Korea's Kyung Hee University, which is also working with KT.

In addition to cooperating with Hanoi Medical University, KT has also conducted joint research with the Vietnam National Cancer Hospital since 2021 for early diagnosis and the treatment of cancer using medical AI technology.

Vietnam's medical sector has grown rapidly. According to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency's September 2021 data, the size of the Vietnamese market for medical services is expected to reach $23 billion in 2022.

Ko Hun-seok, a project manager at KT's Digital and Bio Health Business Department, told reporters that the company decided to work with the Vietnamese medical staff to increase its capabilities in the telemedicine sector. Telemedicine services are prohibited in Korea due to regulations.

"Some overseas digital healthcare companies are just passing the Korean market due to regulations on telemedicine," Ko said. "Unlike Korea, Vietnam has no regulations on additional services such as drug prescriptions and delivery."

The fact that it is easy to expand its business to neighboring countries also influenced the decision to cooperate with Vietnam. "Vietnam plays an important role in Southeast Asia, so if it succeeds in Vietnam, it will be easy to expand our service to neighboring countries," Ko said.


Baek Byung-yeul baekby@koreatimes.co.kr


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