As the coronavirus rages on, China’s online healthcare platforms are growing explosively. Trapped at home due to government quarantines and travel restrictions, many patients are turning to Internet-based options for diagnosis and treatment. Ping An Good Doctor, a healthcare services platform, had a nearly 900% increase in new users from December 2019, before the WHO identified the virus, to January 2020, when the virus spread across China. Ding Xiang Yuan, an online community for healthcare professionals, and Chunyu Doctor, a telemedicine platform, have also experienced dramatic surges in the number of online users and visits—a sign that the COVID-19 epidemic will reshape patient behavior and accelerate the digitalization of China’s healthcare system.
Prior to the outbreak, Chinese consumers typically visited physical institutions for their healthcare needs. Digital adoption was low: According to a Bain survey, only 24% of Chinese respondents had used telemedicine. However, 97% expressed interest in digital health services, if the costs were covered by an insurance provider or employer, and 64% expected to use telemedicine within the next five years. If consumers develop digital habits and a greater willingness to pay for services during the epidemic, that timeline could be significantly shorter.