Digital healthcare on the rise in China: report

Updated: 2015-09-17 11:32

By AMY HE in New York(

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Spending on digital healthcare services in China will grow more than 36-fold from $3 billion in 2014 to $110 billion in 2020, according to a report published on Thursday.

The report by Boston Consulting Group said that investors poured nearly $700 million into

the digital healthcare industry in China in 2014, supporting e-commerce and online

physician-and-patient communication devices, and these figures will grow exponentially.

"The growth of digital in China presents opportunities to address some of the key issues surrounding healthcare delivery in China," said John Wong, a BCG senior partner and co-author of the report, in a release about the report. "It should make the delivery of care more efficient while also giving people broader and easier access to high quality care. "

In the report — China’s Digital Health Care Revolution, published on Thursday — the firm

said there are three trends driving digital healthcare. Widespread adoption of technologies like mobile devices, cloud computing and big-data analytics.

Companies are offering these digital services to Chinese patients in a sector where the government is continuing to implement reform and address unmet consumer needs. Many Chinese patients, for example, go to the hospital for simple needs like renewing a prescription, leading to overcrowded hospitals, and digital healthcare can alleviate such problems, the report said.

There is also an increasingly favorable regulatory environment in China allowing healthcare companies can expand their businesses. The National Health and Family Planning Commission invested $9.5 billion to develop electronic medical records, and it has boosted digital healthcare, making it easier to register online pharmacies and sell certain types of drugs online in the coming years.

The report recommended digital companies looking to enter the healthcare sector to do so by partnering with local hospitals and physicians, and to leverage advantages the digital companies have with mobile payment, social media, and search engine services.

Drug companies need to build e-commerce capacities of their own, and pharmaceutical companies should use digital tools to improve sales and provide disease management.

"They will need to enter into partnerships with e-commerce providers as consumers increasingly purchase products online. Those purchases, which currently include over-the-counter drugs, health food and supplements, and consumable medtech (medical tech) devices, are likely to encompass prescription drugs in the future," the BCG authors wrote.

More digital tools will allow hospitals and physicians to lower wait time and big crowds, and adoption of things like electronic medical records will allow facilities to share information in real time, improving diagnosis and treatment, the report said.