We hear a lot about the rise of mobile applications in China, but we don’t always have the opportunity to hear directly from an enduser. Coco Zhang, a visiting international student from Smith College (Basil Strategies founder Denise Silber is also an alumna), took the time to inform us about some of the leading mobile apps for people in China, seeking an appointment with a healthcare professional.
Denise Silber: It’s wonderful to have you as a source. Tell us Coco, how does a person in China usually find a doctor?
Coco Zhang: Nowadays, the most practical and universal way for the Chinese people to find a doctor is by going to a hospital, where they should register an appointment prior to seeing the doctor. There are mainly four ways to set up an appointment: by going to the registration window at the hospital, by phone calls, by Internet, and recently, by using mobile apps. However, given the limited space and the large number of patients, registration at hospitals is now a huge problem in China. I remembered once when I arrived at a hospital at 7 am hoping to see a dentist, there were already hundreds of people waiting in front of the registration window. “We’ve been here since last night.” A couple told me.
DS Several popular applications help Chinese people find doctors. Why would this be popular?
CZ Given the difficulty of registration at hospitals, several mobile apps in healthcare – for example, Spring Rain Palm Doctor and Quickly Asking A Doctor – have gained popularity in the Chinese app market. These mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular and are getting more and more attention. Firstly, by providing an online registration system, these apps effectively reduce patients’ waiting time at the hospital. Secondly, if not in a serious situation, people can get medical consultation as well as auto diagnosis services by using those health apps without seeing a doctor at the hospital, which makes the patients’ lives more convenient. In addition, mobile doctors apps help establish interactive conversations between doctors and patients. Patients can give feedback on the effect of doctors’ prescriptions later and receive further suggestions from the doctors, whereas in most hospitals, patients wait for hours, meet the doctor for twenty or so minutes, get their prescriptions, and that’s all.
DS What do you think of these applications as to how practical they would be for a Chinese family?
CZ Take the doctor consultation app “Spring Rain Palm Doctor” as an example: there are various sections in the app to meet patients’ different needs. It has a symptom database for self-examination, a consultation section where patients can talk directly to a doctor, a personal center where patients can record their health information, and a last section where patients can find the nearest hospitals. Spring Rain Palm Doctor is practical to Chinese families, as it not only serves a role as a medical encyclopedia, but also provides immediate, specific instructions to the patients. Additionally, through recording their health information and consulting with perspective doctors, people are able to build up their personalized treatment and prevention plan as a family unit, for example, the pregnancy healthcare.
DS Do you have any thoughts about the use of mobile applications in healthcare and how it may be different in China and the US?
CZ I see large market potentials for mobile apps in healthcare in China and the US, since both countries are facing the problem of raising medical cost and population ageing. The US has a relatively mature healthcare app industry, with more developed apps and industry regulations. Yet, one characteristic that brings larger potential to the Chinese mobile applications market is the gap between the quality of hospitals in first-tier cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, etc.) and that in the others. Chinese mobile apps in health care are expected to fill this gap by providing professional consultation and registration services to mobile phone users from all over the country.