Science & Technology

Visit doctor without leaving home: technology in China’s healthcare

By Javier Garcia

Guiyang, China, Aug 26 (efe-epa).- What if you want to consult a medical specialist but live in remote area without high quality healthcare? Online hospitals in China allows people to consult a specialist from home or ask experts for advice from the local outpatient clinic.

Moreover, during the current coronavirus crisis, they are serving the purpose of decreasing crowds in conventional hospitals and thus reducing risk of contracting infectious diseases, especially Covid-19, in the health facilities.

Longmaster, a tech firm in the southern Chinese city of Guiyang, is one of the pioneers in the development of online health centers in the world’s most populated country, where not all citizens have access to top notch healthcare professionals.

The company, which in 2012 was listed in the Shenzhen stock exchange, runs an online hospital at “39.net” — the largest one in the country — besides a conventional hospital, number 6 Guiyang. It It also runs another online clinic for chronic diseases in Guizhou province, along with three platforms for connecting users.

These online clinics offer consultations, virtual diagnosis and health checkups, and also connects local healthcare doctors virtually to renowned specialists from large hospitals in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou for advise.

“We have over 2,000 renowned experts working with nearly 1,000 entry-level hospitals and helping them diagnose serious and difficult cases,” explained Longmaster spokesperson Huang Yan at the company’s headquarters in Guiyang.

This reduces the waiting time and travel costs of primary care patients, who pay 30 yuan ($4.3) per month for membership and another 500 yuan for ever consultation with a specialist.

At the online hospital, patients only have to pay 39 yuan for a written consultation with five doctors. If they receive no response within an hour, the money is returned.

Another option allows one to choose the doctor for a price of between 40 and 80 yuan, depending on the category of the doctor, with a 24-hour period for getting a response.

Besides the online hospital, the company has a medical consultation platform on television and mobile screens.

Without a prior appointment, one can select from a list of doctors from a chosen specialty and check whether or not he/she is online and begin consultation.

Subscription to this service costs 29 yuan per month, although one can also decide to pay only for a singe consultation at the cost of 10 yuan.

After diagnosis, the doctor may prescribe some treatment and, if necessary, recommend the patient to personally visit the nearest health center for further tests.

During the peak months of the novel coronavirus infections in China, more than 100,000 free consultations took place on this platform and the online hospital, according to Huang.

The company also distributes appliances for simple tests, such as those to measure blood sugar and cholesterol levels, which a patient can do at home and then share the results with the hospital through a chip that can be inserted into a mobile phone.

One of the journalists visiting Longmaster’s headquarters underwent a blood sugar test on site, and the result showed a level of 10.38 mmol/L (millimimoles per liter) of glucose, which the doctor on screen considered a “clear symptom” of diabetes, to the reporter’s surprise.

He was then virtually recommended to monitor his diet, exercise regularly, undergo medical and pharmacological treatment and constantly monitor sugar levels.

Testing equipment — which includes 20 different test types and the chip — cost 200 yuan.

Huang explained that they export these equipment to several member countries of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, such as Turkey, Algeria and Egypt, or transfer the necessary technology to manufacture them locally.

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