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WeDoctor Pins Hopes on AI as it Revolutionizes the Chinese Healthcare Market

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Healthcare start-up, WeDoctor is working on providing an efficient and transparent healthcare system in China, as it pins its hopes on artificial intelligence that could predict and diagnose potential future ailments of its users.

The vast WeDoctor network of doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies is working to change the face of healthcare in China. With more than 160 million registered users and 27 million active monthly users, the app has already secured its footing as a major player in the Chinese healthcare market.

How does it work?

According to Healthcare Weekly Magazine, the app offers online diagnoses and prescriptions for its clients, while providing patients the opportunity to talk directly with doctors online.  The company funds itself by taking a percentage of the fees secured from consultations. WeDoctor also sells a speaker that can connect users directly to a provider.

These are quite lofty goals for a company that started off helping patients book appointments with doctors.

However, concerns that tech companies have not performed to expectations are evident: share prices of WeDoctor’s competitor, Ping An Good Doctor, have fallen about 18 per cent since its listing in May.

The company’s head of strategy, Jeffery Chen, says WeDoctor is in the early stages of development.  He is confident there is a ready market for the service and that there is more the company can do to improve efficiency in the health sector.

It is expected that in the next five to 10 years, artificial intelligence could revolutionize China’s health delivery system.  WeDoctor might be hoping to steal a march on its competitors.

The company was founded by artificial intelligence advocate, Jerry Liao Jieyuan and WeDoctor’s dreams are to be a pioneer in this regard, with the company counting on big data to give them the competitive advantage in the industry.

“Through the internet and AI, China’s health care services will improve significantly in the next five to 10 years,” Liao was quoted as saying on Bloomberg.

WeDoctor believes the need for an improved health delivery system with greater convenience will provide opportunities for them in the Chinese market.

The company recently partnered with IDS Medical Systems Group Limited to create a medical supply chain solutions and procurement company, idsMED WeDoctor China Ltd.

The Future Direction of WeDoctor

WeDoctor is on track to be listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2019.  It will also be listed in mainland China, since Chinese law compels companies handling personal health information to also list there. Although WeDoctor is optimistic ahead of the listing, players in the sector have advised caution following the fall of its rival’s shares.

However, not everyone is as bullish about the future of WeDoctor or about the possibility of a similar model working out in the rest of the world.

Doctor Simon Stertzer, a renowned cardiologist and chairman of the board for California-based Biocardia, had this to say about his thoughts on WeDoctor:

‘WeDoctor, the Chinese startup, is a logical extension of artificial intelligence capabilities to the Chinese healthcare system. China has had a traditional problem of providing socialist style healthcare to an immense population, spread over a vast territory. Consequently, the Chinese adopted a system of disseminating physician assistants throughout the rural areas of the country, providing advice and treatment for millions of patients who would otherwise never have access to any personalized medical care. The use of AI directed services would clearly improve this situation, and could create an immensely lucrative startup in the process, but would still, in my view, provide suboptimal care for the average Chinese patient. Although AI is already inserting itself into US healthcare in different forms, it is very unlikely that the WeDoctor model would be successfully adopted in the western world.’

Whatever future holds, one thing is for certain: startups innovating in the healthcare space are on the rise. Verge Genomics, K Health and BenevolentAI each secured significant funding to expand their product lines and operations with the help of Artificial Intelligence. Time has come for us to take AI seriously and to have a meaningful conversation about how we can use algorithms to improve quality of care for patients all over the world.

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