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Online healthcare services show sustained growth, report says

By Zheng Yiran | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-24 08:14


China's internet-based healthcare sector has entered a new stage in its development, though more efforts are needed to further meet user demand and build a matching service system, according to a recent report.

The report, issued by Chongqing-based healthcare research institute VCBeat Research and JDH Online Healthcare, showed that China's online healthcare services grew in 2023, with high-quality hospitals and online healthcare platforms showing remarkable progress. Apart from basic services such as online follow-up visits, they have been constantly enriching their service content to satisfy the diversified needs of users.

In 2023, China's online healthcare sector demonstrated new features.

According to the report, the users of online healthcare are mainly distributed among users who use online consultation services. Although young people took up a great share, aged users account for a major percentage, and the ratio has been growing year by year.

Some users choose multiple online follow-up visits, which suggests that their online healthcare habits are forming.

According to a survey conducted by VCBeat Research and JDH Online Healthcare, 23.76 percent of users hold online consultations two to four times a year, while 16.11 percent go to the same online department two to four times a year.

"Only when they acknowledge the quality of service of the online healthcare platforms do they turn to the platform and even the same department again," said Zhang Xiaoxu, a healthcare analyst at VBData.cn, the parent company of VCBeat Research.

Data from the e-commerce research institute of digital economy media 100ec.cn showed that in the first half of 2023, China's online healthcare sector scale touched 173.4 billion yuan ($24 billion), growing 21.18 percent on a yearly basis. The sector was estimated to surge 24.25 percent year-on-year to 385.4 billion yuan by the end of the year.

Zhu Keli, founding director of the China Institute of New Economy, said: "China's huge population base and the government's policy support boosted the rapid development of the internet healthcare sector. In addition, China's complete digital infrastructure construction and rich reserve of talent have offered strong guarantees for the development of the sector."

Data from the China Internet Network Information Center showed that between 2016 and 2023, the number of online hospitals in the country surged from 17 to more than 3,000.

China's first online hospital was established by Hangzhou-based digital healthcare company WeDoctor in 2015 in Tongxiang, Zhejiang province. The hospital provides telemedicine, online follow-up visits, digital healthcare record sharing and online diagnoses and prescriptions on a large scale.

WeDoctor is partnering with Zhejiang University, Shanghai Digital Medicine Innovation Center, and Ruijin Hospital affiliated with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, to further explore the application of digitalization and intellectualization in artificial intelligence-enabled specialized disease management, diagnosis and treatment of complicated diseases, and co-management of multiple chronic diseases.

"In the past year, China's healthcare sector experienced profound changes. Digitalization and intellectualization have become a new trend of the industry," said Liao Jieyuan, founder of WeDoctor. "Industry players should lay emphasis on innovations in technology and business modes, constantly improve healthcare service efficiency, to satisfy the diversified and multi-layered healthcare demands of the public."

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