Bankcard companies target medical & health sector

Updated: 2016-02-20 01:09

By WU YIYAO in Shanghai(China Daily USA)

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To tap onto the growing demands for healthcare and medical services, bankcard associations and payment services providers have recently launched a wide range of services and prestige packages for consumers, throwing in perks such as better access to hospitals, dentists and skin clinics, getting priority in postpartum care centers, and getting fast-tracked when making appointments with doctors in top hospitals.

Chinese consumers' demands for healthcare and medical services have been expanding fast, particularly through internet-based and mobile channels. A research report by the Boston Consulting Group released last September said that the digitized medical services market will reach a size of some 700 billion yuan ($107.4 billion) by 2020.

Medical services providers said that the innovative payment services offered will help to shorten the many steps required by patients to pay for their medical examination and medication. Gao Xin, deputy head of Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, said that a mobile phone application that enables users to make appointments quickly and pay for bills using China UnionPay accounts have indeed made seeing a doctor much easier for patients.

"Innovative tools that link a patient's bank account and medical bill account will reduce time needed for payment, and their privacy is also protected because the payment process and personal profile is coded under the financial system as required," said Gao.

Wang Aiying, a 67-year-old retiree who has to get her eyes examined at a hospital every month, said that Zhongshan Hospital's mobile phone application has made her life a little easier.

"In the past, I had to get up very early in the morning around 6 am just to line up at the hospital to make an appointment to see an expert. Now, after my son had helped me install the application and taught me how to use it, I can just make an appointment by touching the screens. I can now get to hospital around 10 am on the appointment date instead," said Wang.

The joint program between Zhongshan Hospital and China UnionPay has been running for more than a year and has helped facilitate more than 200,000 hospital visits. China UnionPay is expected to expand the program to more hospitals and clinics nationwide.

Meanwhile, United States-based bankcard association Visa looks to have its eyes set on high-end consumers who wish to keep fit and receive premium healthcare services as well as easy access to care centers.

"China's affluent are attaching more importance than ever to work-life balance and personal healthcare development. That's exactly why we have included easy access to high-end clinics, free access to fitness clubs at five-star hotels and discounts to dentists and care centers," said Stanford Lin, head of Products at Visa China.

A Visa research that surveyed more than 500 wealthy individuals found out that more than 66 percent of respondents said they go to gyms or have signed up for personal coaching programs.