Is WeChat Good For Your Health?
In China, lines, very long lines, are everywhere. It seems that people rush around just to wait in line. Lines are so pervasive that there’s an entire industry, the paotui, dedicated to merely standing in line for you (NPR). Unfortunately, lines are a staple of the healthcare industry as well. Due to the history and distribution of healthcare in China, people flock to large cities when they require the care of a physician. Then…they wait in line, actually lines, sometimes as many as 8 lines before their visit is complete. Overall the healthcare system in China has been taxing on the patients, physicians, infrastructure, and, also, employers as a simple doctor’s visit can require multiple days off work to allow for travel.
Beginning in 2009, China has undergone a series of healthcare reforms aimed at increasing the quality and access to healthcare, while standardizing costs. These reforms launched a movement of private hospitals and clinics as well as investment from western healthcare leaders such as Mayo and Cleveland Clinics. Besides needing to provide this critical resource to its citizens, China would also like to bring home at least part of the $10 billion USD that Chinese citizens spend on average on medical care in foreign countries per year (Medical Design and Outsourcing). With over 80% of healthcare centers located in cities, privatization of healthcare has not increased access for people not located outside major cities (International Journal of Nursing Sciences).
With more than 1 billion actively monthly users on its most popular app, WeChat, Tencent is working to replicate its success while alleviating the current strain on the healthcare industry with its newest app, WeDoctor. WeDoctor hopes to keep some of the rural and aging population out of the large urban hospitals by giving them access to quality physicians through their phone. Historically rural physicians have been poorly trained and therefore not trusted by locals. By providing training and standard care through the app, WeDoctor hopes locals will reestablish relationships with their local providers before making the trek to the nearest urban center (South China Morning Post). Similarly, Ping An, a large insurance and investment firm in China, launched the app Good Doctor. Like WeDoctor, Good Doctor provides access to healthcare and tries to improve the training that rural doctors receive. Currently Good Doctor has more than 180 million users (Forbes).
Both WeDoctor and Good Doctor have registered IPO’s for 2018 on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. With the level of under-served individuals in China’s healthcare system, there’s more than enough room for both apps to thrive!