Why China is the next big market for AI in Healthcare

Many developed nations had witnessed an advancement in medicine and technology going hand in hand. New medical discoveries were made possible with the help of technology, and technology developed as the demands for healthcare increased. This has helped them in developing a robust healthcare system, something that is adopted by many developing countries.

However, there are countries like China that have been practising medicine for centuries, and the technology is just catching up. The inherent advantage of this is that technology is already much ahead of the healthcare, and tried and tested models in the West can be replicated with ease.

This is what is happening in China, at least in the major cities. That said, the immense size of China leaves much to be desired when it comes to healthcare.

China, the hidden dragon

A few decades back, China was not on any major economic map. The only notable export was hard-working labour that helped build the infrastructure in many other countries, including the USA. Today, it is the major manufacturing hub from nails to iPhones. Almost every product has ‘Made in China’ embossed on it. Once known for cheap labour, it is now known for an advanced technological hub for manufacturing for most of the Fortune 500 companies.

With the world’s largest population spread over 9.6 B sq km, it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The population if 1.4 B is not spread evenly though, with cities housing a much larger population than the villages. Naturally, the development is not uniform, With cities like Shanghai and Beijing boasting about world-class infrastructure.

As a result, tertiary care hospitals are concentrated in the cities.

Healthcare in China

China spent about $0.85 trillion in 2016 on healthcare. China has a dual system of healthcare – Western, as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is practised hand in hand across the country. About 40% of all health care delivered in China is TCM, and the government is promoting it even more to ease the burden on hospitals delivering Western medicine.

In China, almost everyone is insured by subscribing to a state-run insurance. However, they also pay out of their pockets to see a doctor. The hospitals are usually busy, and a patient does not get more than an average of 4-5 minutes in a consulting room.

When it comes to adoption of technology, more and more Chinese people are opting for Telemedicine these days. This is easier than say, in the USA, because reimbursement is not a hurdle. Most people pay out of their pockets anyway, so they try and get the best doctors online.

The penetration of IoT devices and Healthtech is low, despite a massive penetration of mobile devices. This poses an interesting opportunity. However, health tracking could take some time and incentive for a wider adoption to happen.

The tax reforms in China, most notably the ‘two invoice system’ is helping the Pharmaceutical companies with their distributions. In this, only two tax invoices can be issued – one by the manufacturer to a distributor, and second by the distributor to the hospital/pharmacy. Under this system, only one commissioned distributor is allowed in the procurement chain. This is reducing the pain points in the supply chain, avoiding delays.

The data norms in China are more relaxed. However, a structure is being put in place to manage the patient’s data in a better way. This poses a unique opportunity, as the structure is leaning towards being more open, allowing the data to be interoperable.

 Role of Aimedis in China

Due to our offerings, Chinese patients can consult doctors beyond their borders, for a nominal fee. The data generated is immense, so managing it is a challenge. Thankfully, with the help of AI and Blockchain, this data can be used meaningfully, benefiting all the stakeholders. People of the Republic will have more options to choose from, the Pharmaceutical and Insurance companies will have an access to concise data, and patients will have an option to share their own data if they want to, and earn some tokens in the process.

Also, read Why Japan, the Tech giant, still needs to improve Health Tech

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