Korea pools patient data to enable digital health schemes

Seoul South Korea
Seoul, South Korea (Reabirdna/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

South Korea is consolidating hospital medical data into a single 10 million-patient repository. The goal is to use Korea’s established medical IT system to build a resource that supports digital health initiatives and the development of new drugs and devices.

Korea will get the scheme underway in the first half of this year by collecting data from six hospitals, local publication The Investor reports. This first step will yield a database of genetic and other data on millions of patients, according to officials. The database will expand further once this pilot phase is complete. The government thinks this approach will leverage an established resource to support the expansion plans of local businesses. 

“Our country retains a world-top level bio database, thanks to the vast digital medical system,” Korean trade minister Paik Un-gyu said. “Through further deregulations and a phased public fund program, we will help local pharmaceutical and medical device companies expand into the global market.”

Officials have big plans for the database. Like other health systems, Korea wants to use the data to support the development of drugs and medical devices. The government also envisages the data helping to predict disease outbreaks and identify trends worthy of further investigation.

These activities are in line with those pursued elsewhere. But Korea also wants to involve its car, IT and telecommunications industries in the initiative to enable more original digital health ideas. These include the installation of biosensors in cars that detect unusual symptoms and alert emergency services when necessary.