China faces a challenge of service delivery, and one way to address this is technology. With 1.2 bn mobiles for 1.4 bn people potential for mHealth is huge.
Although China has expanded health insurance, it still faces the challenge of service delivery. Despite extensive investment and developments, the healthcare system and infrastructure still have severe limitations, and there is a major workforce shortage.
One way to mitigate these problems is through technology. China's healthcare industry is expected to invest USD5.4 bn in IT in 2017, a sharp increase from under USD3 bn in 2012.
Mobile technology, in other words mHealth, is already helping to bring patient care to rural areas, and mHealth IT is being explored and piloted as part of the current reforms.
The MoH is expected to allow online retail of certain drugs any day now. And many large hospitals have started to adopt clinical data centres, and mobile doctor, nursing and admin systems.
With 1.2 bn mobiles in 2013 for 1.4 bn people, China’s potential for mHealth is huge, and annual growth rates of up to 50% are foreseen.
China’s major tech firms are entering mHealth
“State-owned enterprises... are being sidestepped surprisingly fast by entrepreneurial ventures that are truly innovating.” says Charles Hsu of Crosswave Management
Chinese tech volume players are taking an interest:
- China Mobile, with >800 mn users, is involved in a range of mHealth initiatives from primary care to disease management.
- Alibaba’s Alipay service – which has >100 mn mobile users – allows subscribers to register at hospitals, pay for services and check clinical test results with their device.
- Tencent’s WeChat has, crucially, integrated its new hospital payment service with the health insurance system.
- Yihaodian was the first e-commerce site to sell drugs in China.
Other firms, including smaller players such as Dnurse and Lepu Medical, are working on pilots and trials with hospitals and government bodies across a broad front, including cloud systems, online diagnosis, mobile video consultation, many areas of tele-health, and mobile health apps.
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