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Digital transformation: Increasing the vitality of China’s health system



Patrick Kung

China’s progress over the past few decades has been nothing short of breathtaking. It has become an economic superpower, given birth to amazing mega-cities and become a hotspot for scientific breakthroughs. The transformation of China’s health system has also made tremendous advances that have improved the lives of its people. The average lifespan reached 74.8 years in 2010, current infant mortality has almost halved in comparison with 2005, and nearly everyone has a health insurance.


But the country’s rapid industrialization comes at a price: some 85 per cent of all deaths in China are caused by chronic diseases common to developed economies, the care of which demands 70 per cent of the nation’s healthcare budget. In addition, the country’s population of 1.3 billion people is aging rapidly, making it even more urgent to find ways to keep the healthcare industry resilient.

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Furthermore, China’s rural population has access to fewer and less well-trained doctors, because medical resources are being concentrated in the cities. Unless rural areas are given better access to health care, the quality of life in the countryside will not keep pace with advances in the cities.

Thankfully, the use of connected digital devices is rising and rapidly transforming how doctors work and patients live. Take The Personal Health Management System, developed in Shanghai by Philips, for example. A tool for chronic disease management, the system lets medical professionals manage their patients more effectively outside of the hospital and gives patients access to care anytime, anywhere. At the same time, new emerging healthcare service models like medical consortiums are catalyzing the development of the Regional Health Information Systems (RHINs) platform, which will enhance the information sharing and facilitate operations among the community health centers (CHCs), primary hospitals and Level 3 hospitals. Such solutions effectively mitigate the imbalance of health care resources in China, increasing access while lowering the costs.


These and other innovations will transform the health care industry – as long as patients, care providers, the government and insurers are open to them, of course. Everyone will need to adapt to different ways of working, different technologies, new business models and, perhaps most fundamentally, seeing health care not as a cost burden but as an opportunity to innovate.


These innovations will also motivate companies and the government to invest in public-private partnerships as a way to encourage systemic innovation. China’s size requires solutions that are massively scalable, which won't be created unless the private and public sector work closely together.


There is also an important role for multinationals to play. Some of them have been present in China for a long time and operate as local companies that know and serve the population’s needs. Many of them are also trusted and respected brands, which continuously bring innovative health care solutions and services with local insights to improve Chinese people’s health and quality of life.


The public is also a crucial partner in the shift to a more sustainable health system. Like other nations, China has been influenced by globalization and lifestyle changes, leaving many Chinese people suffering from physical inactivity, poor dietary choices and obesity. That’s why it’s so encouraging to see the Government launch programs like Healthy China 2020, which centers on preventing chronic diseases and promoting better lifestyle choices.


Citizens are also getting more health-savvy through social media and becoming more aware of personal health technology. All of this gives confidence that China can – and will – increase the vitality of its health system, led by its own citizens’ aspiration for a healthier future.

Patrick Kung

Patrick Kung

Executive Vice President, Greater China market and member of the Executive Committee

Born in China, Patrick Kung joined Philips in 2008 as Executive Vice President. He was appointed Chairman of Philips Greater China in October 2008 and has served as a Member of Executive Committee of Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV since July, 2011.


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