Ever since April 2018 when the National Health Commission of China launched an initiative to upgrade its medical care sector by leveraging the internet, a total of 158 hospitals have joined the bandwagon, Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday, citing a report released by the commission.
Under this initiative, a hospital is allowed to build an online presence, called an internet hospital, under the same name or under another name agreed upon by it and its partners.
The services offered by one such internet hospital of the Foshan Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Hospital, were described by Chinese news portal South Metropolitan Daily:
Patients can access the Foshan TCM Internet Hospital via its WeChat account. They can find a doctor, who must have diagnosed them at least once at the hospital’s bricks-and-mortar location and can then get follow up diagnosis and prescriptions online. Patients can also get expenses at the Fosham TCM Internet Hospital partly covered by public medical insurance and they can get the prescribed medicines delivered.
Foshan TCM Internet Hospital’s WeChat channel says that utilizes technologies from WeDoctor, an appointment booking platform founded in 2010 and backed by Tencent, KrAsia found.
Before the government’s internet hospital initiative, there was no clear regulation on online diagnosis and online prescription. Public medical insurance coverage was only applicable for those showing up at a bricks-and-mortar hospital.
The government of Chongqing, a large city in Southwest China, has asked all its first-tier public hospitals to have an “internet hospital” by the end of 2020. Hebei province also plans to have at least one internet hospital in each city by then.
While more and more hospitals in the country are developing internet branches, in part accelerated by tech developed by China’s largest internet companies, the tech firms themselves are also aggressively making moves in the healthcare sector.
Another Xinhua report from March said that a total of 25 internet companies have obtained licenses to run their own internet hospitals, and this is just in the remote NingXia Hui autonomous region, which has been designated one of the national “Internet + Medical Health” pilot areas.
KrAsia reported in January that in Suqian, the hometown of JD founder Richard Liu, JD has “entirely moved” a bricks-and-mortar hospital to its online healthcare platform and connect the local public medical insurance system with its online pharmacy.
JD.com told KrASIA it’s not sure whether its Suqian internet hospital is one of the 158 internet hospitals mentioned by the health authorities.
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Editor: Nadine Freischlad