Working Paper 6: China’s Internet Health Market

China’s Internet Health Market

By Hongqiao Fu, Terence Cheng, Duo Xu, and Yuzhu Wang
December 2022

China serves as a model for developing an online healthcare industry. From 2013 to 2019, the total value of China’s internet healthcare market grew from 4.5 billion CNY to 37.9 billion CNY. In November 2020, there were 54.8 million active users of internet health care, up from 46.9 million in November 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has further increased the popularity of these online services and has boosted their popularity in China.

Among the earliest initiatives of internet health delivery in China was the establishment of the Guangdong Internet hospital in 2014, with the strong support by the Guangdong government. In 2015, the Wuzhen Internet Hospital in Tongxiang City, Zhejiang was launched, which was a collaboration between the Tongxiang Municipal Government and internet technology company WeDoctor Group. After 2018, the establishment of internet hospitals accelerated and there were more than 1,700 internet hospitals at the end of 2022. These internet hospitals provided a series of online healthcare services, such as tele-consultation, remote chronic disease management, and online pharmaceutical sales. These online services have been well-received across China since the healthcare market developed these new offerings. Especially during the pandemic, patients have benefited from online diagnosis, door-to-door delivery, online payment, and other services that meet their needs.

Chinese authorities take a supportive position because internet health care provides the convenience of a virtual appointment with doctors without having to visit overcrowded public tertiary hospitals. Online healthcare services also hold the potential to reduce geographical disparities in healthcare access in China. China’s experience can offer interesting insights on potential directions for virtual health care in India. In this article, we describe the current landscape, performance, challenges, and prospects of internet health in China. We conclude by discussing the potential impacts of internet health on China’s health system and providing policy implications for other developing countries.


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