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Healthcare just a click away

By Shi Jing | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-18 07:37

Healthcare just a click away

Online services are available at a pharmacy in Hangzhou,Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Seeing the potential of this emerging sector, industry players are getting in before competition intensifies

The rapid growth of the internet and the increasing use of internet and mobile devices have contributed to a flourishing online medical services industry in China.

According to global market consultancy IDC, the market for Chinese online medical services was 4.2 billion yuan ($618 million) in 2015 and it is expected to be 12.5 billion yuan by the end of next year.

Among the sectors comprising online medical services, mobile medical has developed the most rapidly, with compound annual growth rate of more than 70 percent, even as the industry average growth rate is about 40 percent.

"Led by medical care websites, which sprung up in 2013, online medical care services saw rapid growth in 2015, by which time the industry had moved up the value chain, covering diagnosis, prescription and payment. Thus much more complete medical services are now provided smoothly," said Wang Yong, the associate vice-president of IDC.

Meanwhile, key industry players who can see the potential of this emerging industry have started entering it before the competition gets intense.

Internet companies led by Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have made strategic investments and are building their own ecosystems, while information technology companies represented by Neusoft are more likely to establish their own medical and healthcare information platforms, according to IDC.

Healthcare just a click away

An internet hospital in Wuzhen that connects doctors with patients through a phone app and website. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Growing interest in online medical services has also provided confidence to the companies that are focusing on the industry.

Separately, a recent survey by global consulting firm Accenture showed that 98 percent of its 12,000 respondents were willing to use online medical services.

But the demand was for registration, online medical consultation, medical information, online diagnosis, treatment and post-treatment management.

Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed had registered for online medical and healthcare services via a computer, the survey said, adding that they were satisfied with the services. About 70 percent of the respondents said that they had accessed online medical services via a mobile application or the instant messaging app WeChat.

Wu Xinyi, a recruitment specialist at a headhunting company in Shanghai, said that she downloaded the smartphone app of the hospital she usually visited, and the measure saved her time before and after every appointment.

"Doing registrations is one function that most people use. But for me, getting my diagnosis or the checkup report online was very convenient. I used to wait for the results at the hospital, or wait for a phone call, which was really time-consuming. But now, I can see the result on the app, which I think is a great advantage. But, I do hope the hospital's online security is reliable so that my personal information remains in safe hands," said Wu.

Healthcare just a click away

An internet hospital in Wuzhen that connects doctors with patients through a phone app and website. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Speaking about the industry's prospects, Kiki Fan, managing director of Nielsen China, said: "There is great potential for the development of smartphone apps for medical services and healthcare in China, which is the result of the country's high medical costs and an aging population.

"More importantly, there is a huge imbalance in terms of medical resources between large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai and the rest of the country. This provides room for growth for China's online medical and healthcare industries.

"And, phone apps can provide professional online consultation and help users make appointments in advance.

"With these offerings, the shortage in medical resources can be overcome," she said.

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