In-depth Report: JD Brings Healthcare into the Digital Age

In-depth Report: JD Brings Healthcare into the Digital Age

By Hui Zhang

 

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, JD’s Internet Hospital has taken full advantage of its capabilities, and is continuously innovating amid the novel coronavirus outbreak to meet patients and consumers’ unmet demands. As early as January 26th, JD Health launched a free online consultation platform within its internet hospital for people who suffer from symptoms such as cough, fever, fatigue, and diarrhea and wish to consult a physician.

Starting on February 6th, JD Health expanded the scope of its free 24/7 online consultation to include all diseases. The clinical departments involved address not only the epidemic-related respiratory, infectious and psychology departments, but also cardiology, endocrinology and pediatrics, amongst others. The services are available to all people across the country with access to the Internet. This helps reduce the risk of cross-infection, and provide timely and convenient consultation services for a large number of patients who can’t go to hospitals for treatment. Meanwhile, it can also help relieve the pressure on hospitals.

Free online consultation platform

 

Imbalance of Medical Resources

The four years of constant and countless trips of more than 100 kilometers between the cities of Zhangzhou and Xiamen in southeast China’s Fujian province exhausted Ms. Wu Yan, and cost her huge sums. Having contracted the chronic skin condition vitiligo six years ago, despite the hardship, Wu had little choice in the matter: she lives in a remote village in Zhangzhou, and there was no hospital nearby qualified to treat her illness.

Even after years of treatment, Wu did not see any improvement in her condition, and in fact, began to experience some very serious side effects from taking the drugs recommended by her local hospital, including facial edema. Wu’s friends recommended she try certain medicines, but she found it was not easy to buy those drugs locally.

Sadly, cases like Wu’s are commonplace outside the big cities in China. The greatest challenge faced by China’s health care system is the imbalanced distribution of medical resources – a huge number of people like Wu live in remote areas of the country where proper medical care is in dire shortage.

Chinese hospitals are classified into three-tiers: hospitals with over 500 beds are classed as Tier 3, providing the top level of care; Tier 2 hospitals are medium-sized city or county institutions; and Tier 1 institutions are township hospitals. Most people in China consider only “Tier-3” hospitals as being able to provide high quality medical care. But there are only 1,442 Tier-3 hospitals in total across the country – most of which are located in China’s big cities. As a result, the scarcity in medical resources is felt most acutely by those living in rural areas, and patients from these communities regularly complain about the difficulty they have in obtaining proper treatment.

 

30,000 Doctors Go Online

“Internet hospitals”, which integrate virtual consultation with physical examinations, represent a new way to tackle the aforementioned problem. JD Health, a subsidiary of JD.com, is one of the players taking advantage of its e-commerce platform and technology in the rollout of this model. It has attracted over 30,000 doctors from 32 provinces and regions from all over the country to join JD’s internet hospital, providing patients with professional medical consultation services that were previously difficult for them to access. 62% of JD Health’s doctors come from Tier-3 hospitals, and 90% of patients who choose quick online medical inquiry service can get answers within three minutes.

JD Health’s full-time physician

Wu is one of the patients who has benefited from JD’s internet hospital. Using JD’s Internet Hospital platform, she and her family found Dr. Xiaoyan Wang, a dermatologist at Beijing Tiantan Hospital. Dr. Wang has served a large number of patients online, and received a high number of positive reviews. Wu uploaded her medical records onto the JD Internet Hospital platform, and Dr. Wang gave Wu a treatment plan that was more suitable than her previous one. Wu’s condition has improved significantly after a year of treatment, and all her side effects have disappeared.

“I’ve worked with JD’s internet hospital for nearly two years, and have served almost 3,000 patients,” said Dr. Wang. “Vitiligo is a chronic disease which is easy to diagnose, but difficult to cure. I’m delighted to see Ms. Wu’s condition has improved after a year of treatment, and we will continue to strive for further improvements.”

“Dr. Wang has been helping me for more than a year, and she is always very patient in answering my questions. I appreciate the professionalism of Doctor Wang’s consultation and treatment – she has given me confidence,” said Wu.

Wu is just one patient to benefit from the professionalism and convenience promised by JD’s Internet Hospital. JD’s Internet Hospital currently offers a variety of medical services including appointment booking; visual, phone or text consultation; post-diagnosis health management; vaccine reservation; health education and more.

 

Free Consultation & Measures Against the Coronavirus

JD Health convenes more than tens of thousands of expert physicians who offer a wide range of medical consultation services on its internet hospital platform, and there are nearly 200 top physicians employed as full time staff. Since JD Health launched the free consultation service on January 26th, the online consultation platform has made more than two million consultations. The average daily consultation volume of the platform has reached 100,000 since then. During peak times, the free consultation service is able to serve tens of thousands of patients within an hour. Nearly 60% of all free consultation requests are received and handled by respiratory physicians.

In addition to free online consultation, since January 26th, JD Health has offered a free hotline service for people who need psychological support, especially front-line medical staff working in a highly-intense and high-stress environment. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, JD Health has ensured drug supply and promised not to increase prices during this period thanks to its direct cooperation with a large number of well-known pharmaceutical companies at home and abroad. In addition, JD’s unparalleled logistics speed and qualified pharmaceutical team also make it possible for consumers to buy the right drugs appropriate for their illness and get them delivered in time. JD Health has organized several live-stream experiences hosted by administrators or medical experts from top Chinese hospitals and medical veterans who have experienced the 2003 SARS epidemic to provide knowledge on coronavirus prevention and psychological counseling. The live-streams are free to the public to help reduce their anxiety related to the epidemic, and JD Health promises to continue providing more live-streams in the future.

 

Cooperation with Hospitals & Governments

JD Health is leveraging its digital healthcare capabilities to help enhance services in hospitals and make healthcare more accessible across the country. The company has already launched online consultancy services and smart payment systems in cooperation with several hospitals. Since January 2019, patients at First People’s Hospital of Suqian in east China’s Jiangsu province can access online consultation services via a “Smart Clinic” WeChat service account, allowing them to seek the advice of the hospital’s doctors from home. The Smart Clinic can also facilitate insurance payments for medication in Suqian City.

Because of the epidemic, JD health also cooperates with local governments, in areas such as Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area (BDA), Tangshan city in Hebei province, and Beihai city, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to connect JD’s free online consultation platform to local government public health service platforms, providing convenient and efficient online consultation services to more people.

Local government public health service platforms

 

Unicorn

In November, JD Health completed its latest funding round at US$1 billion, valuing the start-up at around US$7 billion after it was spun-off from JD.com in May. This makes JD Health the third unicorn to be launched by JD.com after JD Digits and JD Logistics.

The internet hospital business model is just part of the measures JD Health is exploring to make it easier and safer for patients to see a doctor. JD Health is also committed to the management of chronic diseases, and has established a cardiology consultation platform headed by renowned cardiologist Dr. Dayi Hu, in the company’s latest effort to connect top doctors with patients on a digital platform.

From left to right JD Health’s CEO Lijun Xin, cardiologist Dr. Dayi Hu

“We aim to increase the income of doctors and alleviate the imbalance in medical resources. We hope to help patients reduce costs, and be the professional platform to assist them in long-term health management,” Xin Lijun, CEO of JD Health.

 

(zhanghui36@jd.com)

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