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Healthcare for Chinese rich a growing market
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14:31, July 06, 2009

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What do the rich care about the most? Song Haifeng said it's "health", which money can't buy.

Song, in his 30s now, followed this principle to found eHealthcare (Beijing) Co Ltd, a specialized provider of high-end health management and consulting services for the wealthy.

"We are a third-party health services provider focusing on disease prevention, chronic illness management and healthy lifestyles. We act as a bridge between medical institutions and customers," Song said.

The company has a membership system for the wealthy, and the rates for individual memberships range from 3,500 yuan to 8,000 yuan annually. Family memberships, covering three family members, are priced from 15,000 yuan to 75,000 yuan.

Song's services include thorough yearly medical examinations, a general health diagnosis every quarter and health improvement suggestions using clinical treatment intermediaries. In addition, eHealthcare also offers other premium services.

The yearly medical check-up is arranged in a top-notch examination facility in downtown Beijing, where the equipment is world-class and the medical staff well trained, Song said.

Masters of traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine practitioners carry out the quarterly diagnoses and formulate health improvement tips for customers.

If an illness is detected, then eHealthcare helps the customer find treatment at top hospitals in the city. "Although our customers have money, they have little access to the best medical help; we can help them," said Song, who worked in a health check-up company for five years before starting out on his own.

eHealthcare has partnered with over 40 public hospitals in Beijing, and its access to some of the best physicians and surgeons in the city is made available to members.

VIP services include short message services that regularly update customers on their drug intake, healthy menu suggestions, managers who assist customers during treatment, and free five-star accommodation on the night before an early hospital visit.

The membership fee is only for eHealthcare's services; customers have to pay all diagnostics and treatment.

"We act as our customers' health manager," said Song, who created the company in July 2008.

Song has 30 full-time customer managers, most formerly employed at public hospitals. "It is really difficult to find people with not just the right medical background and professional knowledge, but also pleasing personalities," Song said.

The demand for private health management services has grown in China. A survey conducted by Southeast University and Nanjing AHCC Health Consultation Ltd last year showed that 79.9 percent of the respondents desired private health management services. Over 60 percent of those surveyed said they would accept an annual expenditure of 2,000 to 3,000 yuan per year for these services.

The survey covered over 3,000 citizens, mainly corporate executives, senior civil servants, academics and celebrities. They were between the ages of 30 and 75 with an annual income exceeding 50,000 yuan in Nanjing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

Nanjing AHCC Health Consultation was established in 2002, and has a premium client list of 1,000 people now. Annual memberships start from 2,000 yuan.

Guokang.com, a website that provides health tips and information on diagnostics centers, has attracted millions of online members since it was introduced four years ago. Its sales revenues hit 80 million yuan last year, an increase of 400 percent from a year earlier.

China's health management sector is likely to boom in the next five to 10 years due to the country's aging population, rising incidence of chronic diseases and surging disposable incomes, analysts said.

Bao Yong, director of Shanghai Jiaotong University's Community Health Service Management Research Institute, said factors, including aging population, intense work pressure, rising incidence of chronic diseases, as well as better lifestyles due to surging incomes, will raise the demand for preventive healthcare management services.

He said health management operators should target other consumer groups and start offering diversified services.

A study by Song's research institute showed that China's private health management sector is now worth 10 billion yuan, with year-on-year growth of between 20 percent and 30 percent over the last decade. The private health management services sector is expected to be worth 20 billion yuan in the next three to five years, the survey predicted.

Source: China Daily

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