The future of medicine in China: ‘Big Health’


The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is currently in full swing. It brings with it disruption and opportunity. It has the potential to transform the world and better equip services to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.

Digital transformation has a profound impact on foreign doctors in China in particular. It disrupts business models, regulations and skills supply and demands.

The Chinese healthcare vacuum

The 2017 Future Health Index by Philips shows that China has the lowest number of health professionals (31.5% per 10,000 people) and the highest risk of incurring unnecessary surgical costs.

Recent decades have seen the system tested to its limits. This has been due to a lack of emphasis on early diagnosis and disease prevention, as well as a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals. This has resulted in overcrowding at the country’s most prestigious hospitals, poor access, and frequent late diagnosis due to a disease-curing approach rather than a disease prevention approach.

It is a top priority to reform a healthcare system that is no longer fit for purpose. The Chinese government’s goal is simple and ambitious: increase access and affordability for its 1.3 million citizens.

The Chinese government has a single goal: to shift from “disease-centered care” to “big health”. This is a comprehensive suite of health services that covers the entire healthcare continuum with an emphasis on chronic disease management and health management. The Future Health Index results show that both Chinese and American healthcare professionals recognize the importance of healthcare prevention.

Nearly two-thirds of Chinese people (62%) believe that healthcare professionals should spend the majority of their time and resources on preventive care. Seven in ten (69%) healthcare professionals agree.

Infrastructure that is overburdened

The reforms will focus on decentralizing the country’s multi-tiered health system to improve efficiency and streamline resource management. It is crucial to properly divide and direct minor and major illnesses into three tiers in order to reduce waiting times, better utilize resources across all Chinese medical institutions, and address the problem of overcrowding at tertiary hospital. All hospitals, no matter their size, must share information, expertise, and resources to make cost savings and improve efficiency.

China’s government has been forced to embrace technology as a way to ease the strain on its overburdened healthcare system. This is why big data should be encouraged to allow personalized and precise healthcare. Nearly a fifth of the global population is located in China. There’s a lot of data, but very little of it can be analyzed. The Chinese government has been focusing on the rapid roll-out of the standard, disease-based clinical data repository that covers a wide range of therapeutic areas. Three digital national databases, which will include health information, profiles, and medical records, will be created by 2020.

Embracing connected care

According to the Future Health Index, 92 percent of Chinese healthcare professionals believe that integration is essential for China’s healthcare system. The government doesn’t have much to do but convince the public about the health-related benefits of technology. They are already open to the possibilities and many people already use connected-care technology for their own personal health monitoring. The Future Health Index found that 67 percent of respondents to the survey said they had used connected-care technology in the last 12 months to track their health indicators. A majority (84%) of connected-care tech users have shared data with a healthcare professional within the last 12 months.

A digital shift

There is significant opportunity for digital transformation within the health sector, with approximately $7.5 trillion globally spent each year on healthcare. This can be used to create efficiencies and also unlock new opportunities to improve patient outcomes. Digital solutions play a key role in the acceleration of value-based healthcare.