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Online medical services to widen in fight against new coronavirus

  • March 12, 2020
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 2:39 p.m.
  • English Press

By NAOYUKI HIMENO/ Staff Writer

 

The health ministry plans to expand the use of the internet for medical services to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, including allowing patients with chronic diseases to receive online prescriptions for new medicine.

 

An expert panel of the ministry decided at a March 11 meeting that easing existing rules would help to protect those most at risk of developing severe symptoms if they are infected with the virus.

 

Under the ministry’s current guidelines, patients are required to see doctors in person to be prescribed medicine. If the prescription does not change, patients can receive an online medical examination without having to visit their doctors for a second time.

 

However, if the patients need prescriptions for different medicine for worsening symptoms or other reasons, the guidelines state that they must see their doctors in person.

 

At the March 11 meeting, the panel advised allowing patients with chronic illnesses to see their doctors online when they need a prescription for new medicine.

 

Conditions were set for the eased rules: the patient’s symptoms must have progressed or changed, and the online service will be available only when the novel coronavirus is spreading.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus infections have continued to rise around Japan and threaten to strain the nation’s health care system.

 

The government has advised hospitals and medical clinics to prepare for a possible shortage of sickbeds and to put priority on saving those with severe symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

 

People with no or mild symptoms may be asked to heal themselves at home even if they have tested positive for the virus.

 

The ministry will allow doctors to use the internet to check on the health of these people.

 

The ministry said the expansion of online medical examinations and consultations will allow doctors to quickly respond to changes in their patients’ conditions and symptoms and help ease their anxieties.

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