Overview of China Life/Health App Ecosystem
This month we consider some of the leading medical apps in China, a sector which is changing the way that consumers approach and engage with healthcare and through the aid of technology.
WeDoctor – previously Guahou or ‘Register’ – was an early entrant into China’s mobile health space. It made public hospital and doctor appointments available through an app.
WeDoctor was founded in 2010 by Jerry Liao, a pioneer in intelligent voice recognition technology.
With fewer than 2.4 doctors per thousand citizens across a population of 1.6 billion, Liao saw an opportunity to use tech to provide access to limited medical resources.
WeDoctor established China’s first internet-based hospital in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province. It pushed for improvements in medical insurance and established health maintenance organisations (HMO) that provides families access to online/offline, general and specialised medical and healthcare services.
It is expanding this HMO strategy and now has five general practice centres. The others are in Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Chengdu, with 100 more planned over the next few years.
Diagnosis at the touch of a button
WeDoctor is leading the market with the hottest medical tech. Its “WeDoctor Tong” offers advice for common minor ailments. With the press of a single key, the user can access health guidance quickly.
The “WeDoctor Smart Clinic” is an intelligent medical station that helps employers manage the health of employees, It consists of an intelligent mobile medical machine, the provides a one-stop-shop for medical healthcare services, such as providing an offline first diagnosis, online re-examination, consultation and follow-up, as well as online medicine purchases for institutional users such as enterprises, nursing homes, communities and schools.
These innovations have made WeDoctor China’s largest doctor/patient matching and big data platform for medical and healthcare, having connected 2,700 hospitals, 260,000 doctors and more than 20,000 pharmacies.
Others trying to get in on the act include Alibaba’s AliHealth and Ping An’s Good Doctor. Both offer similar services, but neither has the number of hospital integrations achieved by WeDoctor.
Tencent has made considerable efforts to break into online diagnostics by establishing Doctor Work, an online/offline private healthcare service with 33 offline hospitals across eight cities.
Despite this, Tencent has invested in WeDoctor, along with Guo Kai Finance, Fosun Pharma, Cheng Xin Capital, AIA, NWS Holdings and CIC Zhong Cai.
After a round funding in 2018, WeDoctor was valued at US$5.5 billion, while it was named China’s Number One Unicorn for Digital Health by CB Insight.
WeDoctor’s success has certainly placed it on the map. It is the only digital health company that made Pitchbook’s top 30 of the world’s most valuable technology companies in 2018.
- AIA and Guahao
Prevention is better than a cure
Platforms such as WeDoctor and DoctorWork help patients manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and hepatitis through the monitoring of sleep patterns, exercise and diet. It also facilitates the delivery of prescription drugs.
According to the Chinese Health Ministry, China’s 114 million diabetics made up a third of the world’s diabetic population in 2014. A further 150 million were pre-diabetic.
This is important as almost 98% of diabetic patients will present symptoms of complications from the disease.
With so many diabetics in the population, the claims rate will rise, resulting in losses for insurers and increased numbers of patients without insurance coverage.
The final analysis
The use of monitoring systems, including wearable tech, either through compulsion or by means of rewarding users with reduced premiums for maintaining better health, would have a profound effect upon this market.
Yet despite the opportunity to better manage these conditions, preventative tech is not gaining traction in the same ways it is in other western and Asian markets.
Medical apps have revolutionised China’s sprawling public healthcare system by matching patient demand with the limited available supply or creating technology that can replace the need for human intervention.
Better and wider application of preventative measures would improve general health, reduce risk – and therefore premiums – and reduce pressure on a health system already stretched to near breaking point.