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Chinese Government pushing for integration of Internet technologies with healthcare

Chinese Government pushing for integration of Internet technologies with healthcare

According to state media outlets, the Chinese Government is encouraging
hospitals around the country to integrate Internet use into their medical
practice. The idea is to promote the use of telemedicine systems, allowing
patients and doctors from underdeveloped areas to consult with the country’s
best doctors, who are often based in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.
 

This is part of a broader push to promote Internet
Plus
[1] healthcare which aims to
help alleviate the problem of inaccessible and expensive public health services.
At a State Council executive meeting on April 12, presided over by Premier Li
Keqiang, a new guideline on the promotion of integrating healthcare with the
internet was approved.

The Internet Plus health plan points to where the country’s
medical reform is heading and it aims to make it more convenient to see doctors
at hospitals, or even at home. This is in line with the Healthy China 2030
Blueprint released by the Party Central Committee and the State Council in
October 2016, efforts will be made to foster new industries, new forms and
models of business in the health sector and to develop internet-based health
services.

In recent years, the number of outpatients at top-level
hospitals in major cities has increased steadily. Medical bills are becoming a burden
on families, and high-end medical resources fall short of meeting the growing
demand of the public.

To address the problem, a two-pronged approach will be
adopted. The first will be to establish medical partnerships such as healthcare
consortiums to enhance the cooperation and coordination between major hospitals
and community clinics. According to the guideline approved at the meeting on
April 12, a service system will be established to promote integration across
public health, privately contracted doctors, medical supplies and medical
insurance reimbursement settlement.

The other is to bring forward Internet Plus healthcare to
facilitate the sharing of quality medical resources. The Government will
introduce supportive policies to boost sharing of medical information, such as real-time
sharing of prescription and drug retail sales within medical institutions, and
infrastructure upgrades for hospitals. This will be done in conjunction with
measures to ensure the security of personal medical information and the quality
of healthcare services.

The government will ensure that long-distance healthcare
services cover all healthcare consortiums and county-level hospitals, and that
quality medical resources in the country’s eastern areas be made available to
the central and western regions.

More efforts will be directed towards the extension of high-speed
broadband networks to cover medical institutions at all levels in urban and
rural areas. Dedicated Internet access services will be set up to meet the need
for long-distance healthcare services.

Medical institutions will be allowed to provide online
diagnostic services for some common and chronic diseases in patients’ follow-up
visits to their doctors. Hospitals in China are organised according to a 3-tier
system based on a hospital's ability to provide medical care, medical
education, and conduct medical research. Based on this, hospitals are
designated as Primary, Secondary or Tertiary institutions. The top two levels
of hospitals within the three-tier hospital system will be encouraged to
provide online services, including consultation, reservation and test result
inquiry.

An example
of a hospital transforming itself according to this plan is Beijing’s
China-Japan Friendship Hospital. Here over 50 per cent of patients come from
areas outside the capital. Motivated by the government, the hospital is
creating an online version of itself, which can diagnose certain illnesses and
hand out prescriptions. If a patient is diagnosed with a common disease at the hospital’s
outpatient departments, they can go back home with a prescription and doctors
can follow their status online. They can also get medicine delivered to their
home.

Today many hospitals in china have developed their own
applications through which patients can register for an appointment online. At the
same time, platforms have been developed to pool resources from different
hospitals to make appointments easily for patients.

Hospitals are now being encouraged to divide appointments
into different time periods to prevent everyone from coming in at rush hours.
Smart hospitals also will be encouraged to help improve efficiency. For
instance, in one hospital in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, patients can make
appointments, pay bills and see results of checkups on their computers or
mobile phones.

The health authority intends to issue detailed online hospital
regulations by May. The regulation will be the first of its kind and are
expected to drive a significant change in people’s doctor-seeing habits.

Premier Li said, “The development of Internet Plus
healthcare is a major initiative to enhance our country’s public health
services. It will also help facilitate overall economic and social development.”

Outlining the government’s responsibilities, he added, “The
government must step up financial support to establish dedicated internet
access services for medical purposes and increase the supply of high-end
medical equipment at central hospitals in remote areas. Meanwhile, the
government must enact related support policies, exercise prudent supervision
and set up a sustainable mechanism to effectively tackle this important issue
of public well-being.”

[1] Internet Plus was proposed
by Premier Le Keqiang in 2015 with the aim of integrating traditional
industries with Internet technologies and creating a new growth engine and
promote the transformation and upgrading of the economy.

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