How Tencent’s medical ecosystem is shaping the future of China’s healthcare

By Linda Lew (Technode),

Read the full article here.

Here’s what used to happen when you get sick in China:

You go to a public hospital to make an appointment, known as guahao (挂号). If the hospital is busy, which it usually is, you could be waiting in line for half a day. After guahao, you need to pay the consultation fee in another line. Only then can you see a doctor. After diagnosis, you get your prescription and line up again to pay for it. Then you wait in hopefully the last line to pick up your medication… if you’re still standing or have someone helping you.

This type of situation stems from the various issues plaguing the Chinese healthcare system. Its primary care system is underused due to the poor distribution of resources and lack of quality general practitioners, leaving hospitals to bear the brunt of treating patients. China also doesn’t have enough doctors: While the OECD average is 3.19 doctors for every 1,000 people, China only has 2.22 doctors and assisting physicians for every 1,000 people. The government began healthcare reform in 2009, but results have been mixed.

Enter Tencent—China’s largest internet company by market capitalization—armed with government endorsements, the most used app in China, new AI medical imaging technology, and tons of cash to invest in medical startups.

“Any sort of technology solution that adds greater efficiency or accuracy to [the Chinese healthcare] system will help improve it dramatically,” founder of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting Mark Natkin told TechNode. “Tencent is introducing all these features and processes, WeChat [services] amongst them, that add efficiency and ease to the process. On the treatment side, anything that can pull together data from multiple hospitals and use that data to improve diagnoses is, again, a huge move forward.”