Live from Cannes Lions Health: That headline was one of the first comments in a panel on the world’s second largest healthcare market. It means: if something is wrong, they treat you; but you have to know something’s wrong.
There isn’t a primary care infrastructure in China. If you don’t feel unwell, you don’t see a doctor. If you do feel unwell, you have to take steps to self-diagnose to identify which kind of specialist you might seek out.
From there, Chinese healthcare consumers, can use digital search tools or chat to find and register with a nearby doctor. That doctor may or may not be the right specialist or well qualified. Of the 3 million doctors in China, only half have a college degree.
Once diagnosed, access to interventions and hospitalization is high but follow-up care is almost non-existent.
The good news is: in China, innovation is everywhere. From governments to entrepreneurs, the country is taking big steps to make care faster, more widely available, and cheaper.
Jun Wu, Founder and Chairman of Cenova Ventures, and Claire Gillis, International CEO of WPP Health, see three key growth areas:
Mobile and digital innovations are working to fill that care gap. 91% of people in China have adopted some kind of digital health. Without the conventional infrastructure, digital adoption is faster. People in China are very willing to share their data, especially when it has a clear impact for their health. One of the top growth areas may quickly become companies that mine multiple personal data sources to offer ongoing care, from follow-up to interventions to flags of health issues to proactively ask about.
Data won’t be used just for individual health, it’s likely that integrated Chinese healthcare data will actually drive bold innovations in care around the world. It’s been said that if data were the new oil, China would be the new Saudi Arabia.
The challenge: getting access to it. Alibaba is a big player in healthcare data, so, too, are individuals and doctors. The challenge will be to align and connect that data while getting critical healthcare organizations, like hospitals, to systematically share their data.
As Chinese healthcare consumers get access to more and more innovative medicines and healthcare experiences, new companies will step in to help them access it. With a growing middle class, the country overall has money and wants to spend it on health, but the services and access aren’t available. The government spends about $700 / year / covered person. That budget level holds services and approval of new medicines back.
But growth in a private insurance market could change that. Our panelists predict that will be the path to allowing people to access more expensive treatments and services that they want, but the government can’t afford.