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Online medical service embraces favorable policies in China

(People's Daily Online)    17:18, March 16, 2020

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19, China has rolled out multiple policies to facilitate the development of “Internet plus healthcare” platforms, which launched various online services including online consulting, free diagnosis, and drug purchasing to help meet many people’s needs for medical services.

A doctor answers inqueries online in Tianjin. (Photo/Xinhua)

Through reasonable allocation of medical resources, “Internet plus healthcare” platforms in China, such as Ping An Good Doctor, Dingxiang Doctor, AliHealth, and JD Health have helped effectively solve the problem of medical resource shortages in some regions of the country since the outbreak started.

Visits and user inquiries of many online healthcare platforms in the country have surged since the outbreak, with Ping An Good Doctor recording a total of 1.1 billion visits, 10 times more new users, and nine times more inquiries than before on a daily basis. 

On Jan. 24, AliHealth rolled out a free diagnosis service for residents in Hubei province, the worst-stricken Chinese provinces in the epidemic, via the Alipay app. 

According to statistics from AliHealth, over 90 percent of the online inquiries made during the first 24 hours since the launch of the free diagnosis service were about prevention and treatment of the novel coronavirus. 

Such services have been encouraged and facilitated by health authorities in the country.

On Feb. 3, the general office of China’s National Health Commission (NHC) issued a notice on enhancing the role of informatization in supporting the work of prevention and control of pneumonia cases caused by the novel coronavirus.

The notice suggests that medical institutions at various levels should be mobilized to leverage the Internet to carry out free online consulting services targeting the novel coronavirus pneumonia, and moreover, provide guidance for people under medical observation at home.

Besides, subsequent visits and drug delivery services for some common diseases, as well as chronic diseases, should also be made available online so as to reduce the possibility of cross-infection, according to the notice.

In an effort to further boost the popularization of online healthcare services, on March 2, China’s National Healthcare Security Administration (NHSA) and NHC jointly released a document promoting the implementation of medical insurance services on “Internet plus” platforms during this period of epidemic prevention and control. 

The document makes it clear that patients with common diseases and chronic diseases can enjoy medical insurance reimbursement according to relevant rules for medical expenses of further consultation at Internet-based medical institutions.

The document also requires medical institutions to provide electronic prescriptions for patients, encourages the adoption of various flexible ways to dispense medicines offline, so that insured patients can use medical insurance cards to buy medicine.

The NHSA has also enhanced collaboration with Internet-based medical institutions. In the process, it has managed to enable insured patients to have the portion of expenses for diagnosis, treatment, and medicine covered by their medical insurance policies directly cleared online. Moreover, they will only have to pay the amount that pertains to their deductible at the time of purchase, just like is the case when buying drugs with medical insurance cards at an offline hospital throughout China. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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