The Journal of mHealth Vol 1 Issue 3 (June 2014) - Page 50

China: A Market for mHealth? China: A Market for mHealth? The China-British Business Council recently published this article, looking into the opportunities for mHealth in China. The Chinese healthcare market represents huge potential opportunities for digital health and mhealth service providers, but there are still significant barriers to widespread adoption. Following the theme of this issue the article illustrates the global appeal that mHealth and Digital Health services have, and the options that they can potentially provide centralised governments to meet the needs of rising populations by providing effective care solutions. Mobile health (mHealth), referring to the use of mobile devices (or more generally wireless technology) in healthcare delivery, is still in its early stages of development but is attracting increasing attention from healthcare providers and payers in both developed and emerging markets worldwide. By improving communications between healthcare providers, payers and patients, enabling the remote monitoring of symptoms and allowing patients to take greater control of their own treatment, mHealth is already demonstrating that it can be highly effective for delivering better and more cost-effective patient outcomes. mHealth has a particularly strong potential in China to address the country’s rapidly ageing population. With few children to support their parents and an exploding middle class that views healthcare as a luxury good they can consume, there is also a shortage of hospitals, clinics, physicians and nurses to meet these demographic and economic demands. With its unique market characteristics and rapidly developing healthcare system, the country is facing particular challenges to provide basic primary healthcare equitably and universally, whilst also providing quality, medically advanced and patient-centric clinical care for those who are able and willing to pay for premium services. China has the largest and fastest growing ageing population in the world (with one fifth of the world’s elderly population), and the one-child policy means that two ageing parents have only one child to care for them in their later years[1]. The Chinese middle class is larger than the population of the United States and already makes up more than half of the urban population. With their growing disposable incomes 48 June 2014 and generally more advanced education levels, the Chinese urban middle class increasingly prefers international-style medical services. While the Chinese government has aggressive plans to reform the healthcare system in China, as illustrated by the healthcare reform goals in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), it will require the adoption of transformative technologies and medical practices to meet these demands. Innovative yet practical mobile health solutions could potentially fill many healthcare gaps in China, where consumers are willing to pay out of pocket for services from both public and private medical service providers. It would also enable providers to overcome difficulties in generating these offerings within existing budget constraints. Pilots of mHealth services are underway or already completed in a number of provinces, and are delivering both real benefits to consumers and potentially attractive returns to investors. For example, the “12580” hospital booking and reminder system in Guangdong, Nei Menggu, Tianjin and Zhejiang supported by China Mobile has helped to reduce the cost of healthcare delivery and at the same time improve patients’ access to doctors and medical facilities. Shanghai Jiaotong University has set up a remote service centre to serve patients equipped with mobile-enabled medical devices provided by hospitals to monitor and diagnose their conditions. Experience from these pilots will help to shed light on how to address the problems of uneven distribution of medical personnel and facilities across rural and urban areas. The pervasiveness of technology is enabling the emergence of a new, more patient-centric healthcare value chain. For technology vendors, service providers and investors(1), mHealth offers many opportunities. The mHealth survey projects that by 2017, China will be the second largest mobile health market after the United States, with an estimated US$2.5 billion in revenues[2]. Development of this market will be further facilitated by the establishment of elec-