Telehealth

With the rapid development of internet technology in China, the penetration rate of Telehealth in China’s medical industry has gradually increased. Meanwhile, medical tourism is developing rapidly in Hainan Bo’ao International Medical Zone, which the Chinese government started to construct in 2018. Patients from mainland China can travel to the medical zone to receive innovative cutting-edge medical treatment and return to mainland China and receive remote monitoring and consultation via telehealth. Telehealth technology will play an important role in helping medical professionals monitor the health status of patients remotely.

Telehealth

Telehealth refers to the technology that provides continuous monitoring and medical health management services to patients through digital information and communication technology. Broadly speaking, it can include application scenarios such as remote medical consultation, health monitoring, and personal health management etc. Based on the rapid development of internet technology in China, medical institutions can track patients’ health status and provide remote consultation services through the internet. With the increased popularity of wearable devices in recent years, more patients can receive health monitoring and tracking without it affecting their daily life.

From a Chinese market perspective, Hainan Bo’ao International Medical Zone is a pilot zone approved by the Chinese government in 2018, to test and promote international cutting-edge medical technologies. More than 40 private and public medical institutions will be located in this area, of which 15 hospitals have been constructed and started to provide diagnosis and treatment services. Patients can fly from mainland China to Hainan, receive diagnosis and treatment in the area, and then return to their hometowns to receive remote monitoring, and communicate and consult with hospitals in the area.

There is no doubt that telehealth will become the key direction for hospitals in the Hainan Bo’ao Medical zone to promote development and seek cooperation. On the one hand, telehealth will ensure that patients’ health status will be continuously monitored when patients return to their hometowns on mainland China, reducing the probability of repeated admissions to hospitals. On the other hand, telehealth data could be used for real-world data research of patient groups, which will also help international medical companies to register their medical products in mainland China in the future.

Why is this interesting?

Although telehealth technology has been used in the diagnosis and treatment of patients, it still faces many challenges.

  • The accessibility of telemedicine: the penetration rate of Internet technology may be limited in some remote rural areas.
  • Uncertainties in the data analysis process: some medical institutions do not accept telehealth data from other hospitals, which bring challenges to the patient diagnosis and treatment process.
  • Telehealth technology cannot be covered by public medical insurance: Buying innovative wearable devices will cost a high amount of money, which requires high payment ability of patients group.

Therefore, such background and challenges have brought many opportunities for international cooperation and innovation such as:

Promote multidisciplinary joint research. Telehealth technology will connect different research areas, including medical imaging, computer science, interactive systems design, patients’ data analysis, etc.

Promote localized innovation. International partners need to localize their own products and solutions, and then apply solutions to Chinese patients.

Provide a huge market opportunity. Due to the aging society changes, the market demand for telehealth technology is very strong.

How Far Are we?

From a policy perspective, the Chinese government strongly supports the construction of Hainan Boao International Medical Zone. In addition, the Chinese government continues to encourage the development of Internet technology, which will become the cornerstone of the development of telehealth technologies.

From an entrepreneurial perspective, we can see that many small and medium-sized companies have received investment and technical support in this field, but due to China’s huge population and complex medical system, the commercialization of many technologies is still in the experimental stage. DongHuaYiWei (DHYW) is a start-up company established in 2020, focusing on Telehealth technology and have successfully cooperated with many hospitals in Beijing to provide telehealth services to patients.

From the perspective of investments, we see a growing increase in corporate investment into telehealth, especially China’s large Internet companies such as Tencent, Alibaba and Huawei. They invest in start-up companies and integrate some mature technologies into their business areas to expand or enhance their business lines.

From the corporate angle, Huawei developed watch 7, and joined a heart disease research project in Beijing 301 Hospital. The device could identify sleep, Heart rate variability (HRV), blood oxygen, heart rate and other information, and then identify conditions such as arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation.

From the academic perspective, we can see a strong interest in this field from many research institutions, but there are still challenges in obtaining patient monitoring data from different hospitals. At the same time, the issue of how to reduce the cost of buying telehealth technology and services from public sector will also be an important research direction.

Let’s connect

Please reach out to Martin Rune Hoxer marhox@um.dk for any inquiries. ICDK Shanghai offer services to both corporates, SME’s and academic partners looking to dive further into the area of Telehealth.

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