Digital technology in the field of healthcare

The “Healthy China 2030” Planning Outline issued by the State Council proposes to promote the digital health strategy, accelerate the deep integration of digital technology and healthcare, and increase policy and financial support for the digital health field. By empowering healthcare with the intelligence of technology, it aims to achieve comprehensive upgrading of medical services and population health management.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the healthcare industry has actively promoted two major strategies: “Healthy China” and “Digital China,” effectively promoting the rapid development of digital healthcare. In April 2018, the “Opinions on Promoting the Development of Internet Plus Healthcare” were issued. In October 2020, the “Guiding Opinions on Actively Promoting Internet Plus Medical Services and Medical Insurance Payments” were issued, further promoting the development of internet healthcare. In November 2022, the “National Health Informationization Plan for the 14th Five-Year Plan” was released, proposing to establish a unified, authoritative, interconnected national health information platform by 2025, supporting a coverage system and achieving basic connectivity between public medical and healthcare institutions and the national health information platform.

The essence of digital healthcare is medical services. Only through standardized development and the provision of high-quality medical services can digital healthcare thrive steadily in the long run.

Firstly, it is crucial to promptly address the issue of medical data sharing. It is suggested to establish a clear timeline for data integration at various levels, develop a specific national roadmap for advancing the integration of medical information, and focus on addressing both technical configuration and interest coordination. In terms of technical configuration, international practices can be referenced, operational guidelines can be introduced, an industry-based basic standard information system can be established, and existing data can be gradually standardized and transformed. In terms of interest coordination, efforts should be made to promote the establishment of mechanisms for cooperation and benefit sharing.

Secondly, it is important to explore the establishment of a classification-based payment model. For innovative digital healthcare models that provide new therapies or functionalities with clear beneficiaries, it is recommended to prioritize user payment for the final services and establish a reasonable profit-sharing mechanism between development entities and implementing institutions. For models that primarily aim to improve the efficiency of healthcare institutions, it is suggested that the fees be primarily paid by the using institutions.

Thirdly, it is important to strengthen the establishment of standards, formulation of rules, and regulation of behavior to promote the standardized development of digital healthcare. Clear operational standards and behavioral guidelines should be established for internet-based pharmaceutical sales, online consultations, and internet-based medical practices to enhance compliance with regulations. Based on the requirements of laws on personal information protection, cybersecurity, and data security, detailed implementation rules and regulatory measures with strong operability should be promulgated, including the classification of medical data, users, usage methods, and usage guidelines, to strictly govern the chaotic practices in the use of medical data.

The fourth aspect is to deepen the understanding of the laws of digital healthcare and address the developmental mismatch. With a focus on the elderly population suffering from chronic diseases in the community, we will increase training on the use of smart healthcare devices and enhance the awareness of the elderly towards digital healthcare. By promoting the construction of internet hospitals and improving internet-based diagnosis and treatment, we aim to explore the establishment of a smart model for resident health management with primary healthcare institutions as the main body. We will intensify monitoring and evaluation of the usage of existing internet hospitals, establish reasonable payment and incentive mechanisms, and develop a normalized system for diagnosis and treatment services. We will also guide internet platforms to increase research and development of digital medicine and treatment methods in areas such as tumor diagnosis and management of chronic diseases, fully leveraging the advantages of digital healthcare and injecting new momentum into the construction of a Healthy China.

As the Internet rapidly becomes more accessible, the acceptance of online medical consultations by residents is increasing. By the end of 2022, the number of internet healthcare users reached 363 million, accounting for 34% of the overall internet population. In terms of the main players, early internet hospitals were primarily initiated by internet companies, but since 2018, hospitals have taken the lead. Currently, hospital-led internet hospitals account for about 70%, with public hospitals being the majority. Digital technology has also facilitated the overall development of the health ecosystem. In 2021, electronic health cards were piloted in over 2,000 healthcare institutions in 21 provinces. As of September 2022, over 1 billion electronic health cards have been issued, covering more than 6,000 hospitals nationwide.

Digital healthcare is a new medical approach that fully utilizes computer technology and information technology. The medical informatization initiated by hospitals in the 1980s, the emergence of pharmaceutical e-commerce in the early 21st century, and the rapid development of telemedicine, internet hospitals, and internet healthcare in recent years are specific manifestations of digital healthcare in different periods. Currently, the application of new generation information technologies represented by the Internet of Things, big data, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence in the field of healthcare is increasing. Digital healthcare, characterized by digitization, networking, and intelligence, is gradually becoming a new trend in the healthcare field, continuously driving the transformation of models and the improvement of efficiency in the medical and health sectors.


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