Residents of China’s Yangtze River delta region stand to benefit from distant medical diagnosis and algorithm-backed disease detection services.
Thanks to a healthcare agreement between local authorities and Chinese Internet giant Tencent, cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence technologies will be applied to digitalize the medical sectors of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces and Shanghai.
“Technologies will help aggregate the resources of offline public hospitals into a medical network serving local residents,” according to a joint statement.
Under the agreement, patients are entitled to go through the medical checkup process starting with the online appointment. After that comes a video consultation and diagnosis, and then e-prescriptions, online payment and delivery of medicine, all with a few taps on the phone.
A trial by four hospitals will use WeChat to fulfill a variety of functions that previously required people to line up in overcrowded hallways.
Medical records, encrypted to protect information, will be attainable at any time, as people shuffle between hospitals.
Another major highlight is the introduction of Tencent AIMIS, an AI-enabled diagnostic imaging solution developed last year to detect early symptoms of various cancers.
Chen Guangyu, Tencent’s vice-president, said the program has scanned hundreds of thousands of gastroscopy images and is more than 90 percent accurate in diagnosing preliminary esophageal cancer.
“By accumulating massive troves of data, the analysis is expected to become even more reliable ... and can effectively assist younger doctors,” Chen said.
Smart healthcare solutions are mushrooming across China in light of the country’s aging population and the relatively unbalanced allocation of medical resources. The State Council issued a guideline in April to promote health services using Internet technologies.
Alibaba Group rolled out an ET medical brain that can aid doctors in medical imaging, drug development and health management, while search engine Baidu launched an AI-powered chatbot designed to talk with patients and collect data on their conditions.
“When you combine AI with the nation’s trillion-dollar healthcare sector - especially healthcare at the smaller, local level - there are infinite possibilities,” said Xie Guotong, chief healthcare scientist at Ping An Technology.
China’s Internet healthcare market is expected to surpass 90 billion yuan ($13.1 billion) by 2020 from 22.3 billion yuan in 2016, according to a Sootoo Research Institute report in April.