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Virtual medical care services benefit from policies

China Daily Updated: 2021-04-01

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A doctor at a hospital in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, checks blood pressure data of patients via an online platform on March 26 last year. [Cao Jianxiong/For China Daily]

Chinese internet healthcare companies are bullish on online chronic disease management thanks to pilot regulations and reforms, increasing patient acceptance of online healthcare, evolving digital applications and surging market demand.

Medlinker, a leading online platform for chronic disease management, said it has provided services to over 5.5 million patients to date, and experienced a spike in demand.

Founded in 2014 in Chengdu, Sichuan province, the company was first set up as an online community for doctors and later decided to focus on online chronic disease management due to the large number of experienced doctors offering their services on the platform. Medlinker has already more than 800,000 registered doctors.

Online healthcare giant Haodf.com said it has so far served 69 million patients, and communications between doctors and patients via the online platform regularly number over 200,000 per day.

More than 230,000 doctors provide internet-based services to patients through its platform, among whom 87 percent are experienced doctors, the company said.

Dong Jiahong, director of the smart healthcare branch of the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, said the convenience and benefits of online healthcare remain attractive for both patients and doctors in the post-pandemic era after the contagion spurred development of online healthcare as patients tended to avoid offline hospital visits.

"Digital remote healthcare enables hospitals and doctors to provide systematic and quality follow-up medical services through internet applications, and patients are to receive rehabilitation services in communities and access long-term chronic disease management online. Online healthcare also enables doctors to provide services to patients during spare time and conduct medical research via digital tools, which helps doctors to learn and to grow," Dong said.

According to a recent report by think tank EqualOcean based in Beijing, the market potential of China's online chronic disease management sector outside hospitals is huge, estimated at more than 230 billion yuan ($35 billion) in 2025.

Wang Hang, founder and CEO of Haodf.com, said long-term and stable patient-doctor connections on internet healthcare platforms have become feasible thanks to advanced technologies, and such connections-especially between repeat patients and their doctors-effectively enhance allocations of China's regionally unbalanced medical resources.

In traditional chronic disease management, medical services often take place in hospitals, and patients have to visit hospitals regularly for prescriptions and medicine purchases. However, they still require professional advise on disease management after they visit brick-and-mortar hospitals.

Online chronic disease management platforms can provide services including online consultation, medicine delivery, key health status index surveillance, dosage direction, intervention in case of adverse reactions to drugs, medical insurance reimbursement and disease education, which can effectively improve weaknesses in traditional chronic disease management, the think tank report said.

Wang Shirui, founder and CEO of Medlinker, said the company is determined to foray deeper into online chronic disease management services, which he believes can meet the actual needs of chronic disease patients rather than just providing online medical consulting services.

Since 2020, Medlinker has been working with top medical specialists in different disease areas to create standards and medical expert consensus for online chronic disease management.

To date, more than 30 diseases including diabetes, chronic kidney disease and several types of cancer and mental conditions have been covered.


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