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Opportunities in IT for Chinese Health Care

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The reforms by the government clearly highlight the need for improving the IT capabilities of the medical insurance for foreigners in China system. China’s Ministry of Health has begun a concerted effort in order to determine what information should be included in electronic medical records (EMRs), to be used by payers, providers, and what should be included in individual patient’s personal health records. The path to developing common IT standards has not been determined by all stakeholders (such as the province bureaus of industry and health).

Some regions are however moving ahead to adopt new IT systems. Beijing is one example of a region that has a pilot network for health information. It combines data from many providers. Pilots are being launched in provinces like Jiangsu, Fujian and others to accelerate EMR use.

China is still a developing market for private IT vendors in the health sector, but it has the potential to become a major one. The opportunity to contribute to the development of platforms and standardize products that help to gather, link and analyze data is available to early entrants. IBM has already entered this market and is currently working with a top Chinese academic medical center in order to create an evidence-based patient care program.

China must find a sustainable funding source if it wants its reforms to be successful in the long-term and to make health care affordable for its citizens. It must also increase the institutional capabilities at all levels of the health care system, including the city, regional and national. This will allow them to implement the necessary changes. Private companies, particularly commercial payers, will still have a limited share of China’s market. However, they can help other parts of the system to acquire the necessary capabilities and put pressure on the public providers to improve their care.

The success of the biomedical program’s implementation will ultimately depend on the ability of the national government to bring together the interests and foster a policy environment that supports innovation and quality without resorting to protecting local champions. While progress could be slow in certain areas of the plan, such as fostering innovation, China is still playing a long-term strategy. The country’s health-care efforts will go far beyond the 12-year-old five-year plan. Given China’s rapid development and scale, some market developments, such as the emergence or manufacture of biosimilars or vaccines, could have far-reaching implications.

China is still a shining spot in the global outlook on health care. However, the barriers to effective competition have been raised by government intervention, increased business complexity and intensifying local competition. Multinationals must increase their investment across the value chain and improve their core capabilities. They also need to explore innovative ways to reach new customers through partnerships in order for them to succeed on a large scale. Multinationals will be able to successfully navigate China’s uncharted waters in health care.

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