Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on Promoting the Development of “Internet plus Health Care” (Guo Ban Fa [2018] No. 26) (Mainland China)

Joyce Wen

The General Office of the State Council recently issued the Opinions on Promoting the Development of “Internet plus Health Care” (the “Opinions”) to promote the implementation of the Healthy China Strategy and improve the modernization of medical and health management.  The Opinions primarily pertain to three aspects with the improvement of the “Internet plus health care” service system and its support system, as well as the strengthening of industry regulation and safety safeguards.  A total of 14 recommendations were made as detailed below:

1. Opinions on the improvement of the “Internet plus health care” service system

With respect to the improvement of the “Internet plus health care” service system, the Opinions state: (1) medical institutions are encouraged to leverage the Internet and other information technologies to expand the scope and content of health care services and to construct an integrated online and offline health care model covering the entire health care process; (2) it is hoped that the online inquiry and regulated use of residents’ electronic health files can be promoted; (3) medical and health institutions are encouraged to cooperate with Internet companies for strengthening the integration of regional medical and health information resources, with the use of big data to make epidemiological trend predictions and  enhance the smart monitoring of contagious diseases; (4) encourage the development of intelligent information platforms for family doctors to contract providing services in transforming from medical services to family doctor services; (5) recommendation for pharmacist review of online prescriptions for common diseases and chronic diseases prior to delivery by a qualified third party institution at the request of medical institutions or pharmaceutical handling enterprises; (6) encourage the establishment of a medical and health education training platform for providing diverse online medical courses and medical education; (7) encourage the development of artificial intelligence-based clinical diagnosis and treatment decision support systems, the development of intelligent medical image recognition, pathological classification and multidisciplinary consultation as well as intelligent voice technology applications in a variety of medical scenarios for improving the efficiency of medical services; (9) it is also hoped that the integration and application of clinical and scientific data can be enhanced, and that the research and development of medical treatment and health-related artificial intelligence technologies, medical robots, large medical equipment, emergency rescue medical equipment, 3D bio-printing technologies and wearable devices can be supported.

2. Opinions on the improvement of the “Internet plus health care” support system

With respect to the improvement of the “Internet plus health care” support system, the Opinions state: (1) it is hoped that the realization of shared medical and health information can be accelerated, the construction of a unified, authoritative and interconnected national health information platform may be coordinated and promoted to gradually realize a connection with the national data sharing and exchange platform, which will lead to better collection of data on population, public health, medical services, medical security, drug supply, comprehensive management, etc., as well as smoothen the data sharing channels among government departments, regions and industries, and promote the sharing and use of national health information; (2) it is hoped that this can promote the sound development of unified regulations for the national medical and health data resources and standards system, the regulations for the “Internet plus health care” standard may be strengthened, basic standards on medical services, data security, personal information protection and information sharing may be established, and matters such as the requirements for the first page of medical records, the classification and coding for diseases, the classification and coding for surgical operations, and medical terms and jargon may be standardized “four-in-one”; (3) it is also hoped that the performance of hospital management and convenience services to the public can be improved, and that the support provided by the infrastructure of medical institutions may be strengthened, which means focused support on extensive coverage of high-speed broadband to all levels of medical institutions in urban and rural areas, plus in-depth development of universal telecommunications services pilot zones, and w the push for fiber optic broadband to medical institutions in rural areas; (4) with respect to the demands for remote medical care and the sharing of medical information, telecommunications enterprises are encouraged to provide high-quality private Internet connection services and virtual private networks (VPN) to medical institutions so as to promote the establishment of a dedicated remote medical care network and ensure the quality of transmission of relevant medical data; and (5) it is hoped that a refinement of multi-site practice policies for doctors could encourage physicians to develop “Internet plus health care” services.

3. Opinions on enhanced industry regulation and safety safeguard

Meanwhile, the Opinions have not forgotten the strengthening of industry regulation and safety safeguards, and it specifically refers to strengthening of the supervision over the quality of medical care.  The Opinions will also introduce measures to regulate medical diagnosis and treatment online, clarify regulatory bottom lines, improve the entry standards for relevant institutions to minimize to the extent possible access restrictions, enhance ex post regulation, and ensure the quality and safety of medical and health services.  The Opinions also propose to study and formulate laws and regulations on the rights verification, openness, circulation, transaction and protection of big data in healthcare to ensure data security.

In conclusion, the Opinions issued by the State Council suggest that there are plenty of opportunities in the medical field for both medical technology enterprises and Internet enterprises alike.  Enterprises interested in investing in such field may further monitor to the latest developments from the National Health Commission, the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and various medical institutions.