Korean hospitals welcome Danish Rehabilitation Technology

As a rapidly ageing society, South Korea has a lot of demand for welfare and rehabilitation technologies and knowledge. Denmark has much to offer in this area of expertise. Innovation Centre Denmark in Seoul and Dr Kirim Kim, Director of Dong-A University Daesin Intermediate Care Hospital, their insight into the trends occurring in Korea right now and what the market calls for.

Dong-A University Daesin Intermediate Care Hospital is a care hospital located in Busan Metropolitan City, the second-largest city in Korea. The hospital operates a rehabilitation treatment program for patients who have completed acute stage treatment at a university hospital or general hospital, as well as for alleviation of terminal cancer patients. Daesin Intermediate Care Hospital treats and manages their patients at subacute stages and those who have not completed the acute stage care. 

  It is difficult to treat these patients at a traditional care hospital. So Daesin Intermediate Care Hospital focuses on reducing the occurrence of secondary complications and after-effects. The Hospital also worked closely with associations that focus on ageing population and rehabilitation technologies on improving the facilitation on outpatient treatment and diagnosis through state-of-the-art equipment at the Hospital. By such collaborations, Daesin Intermediate Care Hospital aims to help patients improve the living quality of their daily lives. 

Trustworthy and stabilizing technologies

The Hospital has many patients with musculoskeletal problems, and a large number of inpatients who have suffered from pelvic fractures, cerebral stroke, spinal cord lesions and cancer. Some of them have Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia on top of the abovementioned issues.

- I guess it is all about making it easier for patients to stabilize and carry out their daily activities, says Dr Kirim Kim, Director of Dong-A University Daesin Intermediate Care Hospital.

- Of all things, I think operating a treatment program where caregivers and patients can fully trust the Hospital and the care they receive is the most important responsibility of mine. Other than that, I think managing our staff who work at the hospital 24/7 is another very important task, says Dr Kirim Kim.

Cost hinder treatment and proper rehabilitation

As for the difficulty in implementing the rehabilitation treatment in South Korea, Dr Kim points out that the main difficulty is the cost. 

- Even if the Hospital encourages the patients to go into rehabilitation to prevent complications or after-effects, many people find it difficult to pay for the expense, says Dr Kim. 

- Unfortunately, yes, that means many people in Korea aren’t always getting the treatment they need. Generally, most care hospitals encourage patients to simply “take a rest.” Due to concerns about hospitalization costs, proper rehabilitation is not carried out. So, it is difficult to explain the importance and effectiveness of the rehab process to the caregiver and seek consent. Language therapy or cognitive therapy, which is not covered by the national medical insurance, is more difficult to implement, says Dr Kim.

A new paradigm for faster rehabilitation

But the focus on making rehabilitation and welfare technologies and treatments more accessible to the patients is more on the rise in Korea. There are plans to establish a convalescent care system to improve the quality of rehab in care hospitals. 

The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MoHW) is currently carrying out a pilot project on it, so it is expected that the system will be introduced and adopted from the end of 2019, upon evaluation. In South Korea, medical institutions are normally divided into general hospitals, hospitals, care hospitals and clinics. Convalescent care system would mean a new paradigm of rehabilitation. This would help patients return even faster to their daily lives.

Opportunities and requirements for access to the Korean market

- I think there are many areas we can collaborate with Denmark. Denmark is an aging country, just like ours. I am aware that health care accounts for 30% of the total public health expenditure and medical costs take up 10.6%, which is higher than the OECD average. I also heard that 16 new and expanded hospitals have created demand for more medical devices and interest in rehabilitation treatment, says Dr Kim. 

These are similar concerns as Korea, and South Korea has a demand on the rise at an exponential speed, expecting to be a super-aged society by the year 2026. 

- It would be great if Denmark and Korea can work together on sharing the know-how of telemedicine and developing personal imaging devices, says Dr Kim. 

- The first priority would be for the government and relevant authorities to establish an ideal welfare policy. To do that, there needs to be a sufficient level of discussion between the Ministry, which implements policies, and the relevant institutions, such as Korea Association of Medical and Care Facilities, Korea Aging Friendly Industry Association and Korean Convalescent Hospital Association. It will be a good idea to develop medical devices from then onwards, according to different needs. I think establishing government-led policies would be of utmost importance because the coverage and benefits of national health insurance are a lot bigger than in other countries, says Dr Kim. 

Factors to consider before looking into the Korean market

Many companies in Denmark have invested in healthcare technology and rehabilitation devices for many years. With their accumulated know-hows over the years, if the Danish entities can seek the right application and modification to the Korean market, they could create good opportunities here.

Dr Kim advises that getting in contact with local hospitals would not be enough [since] certain prerequisites must be met, upon entering the Korean market.

- Specifically, first, there needs to be solid data showing the results of the cost and effectiveness of the technology or device. This would determine whether or not it applies to the national health insurance in Korea. Second, if it is not applicable for insurance, “New Medical Technology Certification” needs to be acquired. Third, for additional medical certification, it is important to seek advice from the Ministry and the Korean Academy of Rehabilitation Medicine about the Social Work Evaluation, says Dr Kim.

  • Show the results of the cost and effectiveness of the technology
  • Determine whether or not the technology it is applicable for the national health insurance in Korea
  • Seek advice about the Social Work Evaluation

Dr Kim adds that Dong-A University Daesin Intermediate Care Hospital always welcomes Danish expertise and technologies and have a keen interest in assisting Danish entities in these steps of entering the Korean market. 

If you are interested, you can write to Innovation Centre Denmark in Seoul at selamb@um.dk to inquire about contacts to any potential Korean partners or Dong-A University Daesin Intermediate Care Hospital with headlines: “Welfare and Rehabilitation Technology Market Opportunities in South Korea – ICDK Seoul”.

This article is linked to the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Denmark and South Korea.

Image: Innovation Centre Denmark. Dr Kirim Kim, director of Dong-A University Daesin Intermediate Care Hospital

About Dr Kirim Kim

Kirim Kim became the Director at Dong-A University Daesin Intermediate Care Hospital in April 2019. Previously, he was in various medical centres and hospitals in South Kore as a director and professor. His area of expertise is rehabilitation medicine, and his department offers rehabilitation treatment to prevent the secondary complications in patients who have had major operations such as pelvic bone fracture and those who suffered from cerebral stroke, spinal cord lesion and cancer. He is currently also the Chairman of National Pension Service’s Personal Assistance Service for the Disabled Committee and a Member of the Evaluation Committee of National Health Insurance Service’s Medical Expenditures for the Elderly Board. 


Martin Kramer Hansen

Innovation Centre Denmark Seoul

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Welfare Tech is​ co-financed by the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science and The European Regional Development Fund.

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