Digital Health Firms Line Up to Show ‘Real-world’ Care as Epidemic Creates Excess Demand
COVID-19 and China
Wuhan, a city of 11 million located in central China, is the backbone of the county's logistics network. Wuhan is now under 'lock down' to prevent viral spread. Image: Credit to Pixabay

Digital healthcare platforms have long been putting forward the notion that China is facing an excess demand problem in primary healthcare services as part of an explanation for the reason behind their existence.

This week was a genuine test, as well as an opportunity to prove their value-added, for all players.

On January 23, Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the crisis, started to build a specialized ‘pop-up' hospital to accommodate 1,000 beds. It will be put into use on February 3, showing how the centrally located city is struggling to provide facilities for the excessive, unusual demand.

As this atrocity goes on, the online health platform Medlinker (医联) has announced that it has set up a free online consultancy channel to address inquiries around the epidemic area and asked the doctors from all around the mainland to join the volunteer group of medics. The platform is known as ‘the Linkedin of doctors' in China and is backed by a group of wealthy investors, including Sequoia. Tencent's healthcare arm, TTD (企鹅医生), known as Tencent Trusted Doctors, has also initiated a free online health consultancy channel for the tricky virus, a Chinese media channel stated. 

Miaoshou Doctor (妙手医生), on the other hand, utilized its massive pharmacy network to address Chinese citizens, many of whom have been struggling to find facemasks and know little else to do as an appropriate response. The company has been promising that prices will not be inflated. The largest player in China's online health scene, Ping An Good Doctor (1833: HK), has responded to the crisis by sending over 10 million facemasks to numerous Chinese cities through its pharmacy network, as well as setting up an online consultancy channel.

Medical infrastructure providers, such as the Baidu-backed Neusoft Medical Systems (东软医疗), moved one step forward, sending a standby epidemic treatment unit to Wuhan with CT machines – a high-end medical facility that most Chinese hospitals don’t have. Alibaba's healthcare unit and Kuaishou are amongst the other Chinese IT and healthcare companies that have declared the intention to provide various forms of support to the region.

As of 25 January 2020, 10 AM (GMT+8), the number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus had risen to 1200, with 41 fatalities, said state-backed media. The spread of the epidemic has yet to be stopped.

As Chinese authorities continue to describe the situation as "controllable," naysayers speculate that the epidemic situation may go on for a couple of months, wiping out market confidence and shaking different industries in different directions. The CSI 300 index was down over 3% on January 23, while some biotech stocks got the investors’ love, as people move cynically to put a price tag on a possible catastrophe. 

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