Dr. Alex Ng, Senior Vice President of Tencent Healthcare, was a keynote speaker at the 2022 MIT Platform Strategy Summit held at the MIT Media Lab. Below is an excerpt from his presentation, edited for brevity.
More and more people are increasingly relying on the internet for health and medical advice as information becomes more accessible online. Questions arose, however, about the reliability and impartiality of information found online. Although medical information has been readily available online for some time now, much of it has been piecemeal and focused on single-point solutions. What healthcare consumers lack is an integrated online resource that brings together multiple providers with reliable information in a one-stop, easy-to-use platform.
Back in 2017, Tencent began exploring ways to enhance public access to China’s healthcare system while addressing this critical issue. With more than one billion users on Weixin and its international version WeChat, we began thinking how we can create a patient-centric, integrated online platform that makes it easier for people to connect with credible medical services and health information, whether they live in megacities or remote mountain villages.
Solving Immediate and Urgent Problems
We launched several pilot programs looking at how we can apply technologies such as artificial intelligence to improve the efficiency of medical services. In 2019, we began beta testing of the Tencent Healthcare platform, a mini program within Weixin ecosystem and accessible to all Weixin and WeChat user.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we accelerated our efforts to create an integrated and effective internet platform to address not only the immediate and urgent problems, but also to establish the future model for the online healthcare system. We sought to integrate online solutions and boost the platform’s reliability.
From its earliest iteration, the Tencent Healthcare platform became the major online source for reliable health information in China. The platform became more popular during the pandemic. Both Weixin and WeChat users are using it to book consultations, arrange prescriptions and access professional healthcare information. At the peak of pandemic, the platform served over 350 million visitors in February 2020, and the platform is still a go-to for more than 95 million users a month.
Mobile Digital Assistant
An integrated platform enables an online services model that creates a better patient experience and enhances the efficiency of medical professionals who perform administrative tasks. It is part of broader initiatives worldwide to digitize health records in order to provide better healthcare.
A patient-centric and decentralized ecosystem of medical and healthcare specialists connected to secure electronic medical records (EMR) can be tailored to each unique health setting to ensure coordinated, faster and more accurate service.
Unlike the original computerization of the healthcare system in the 1990s — when doctors had to spend more time on computers and admin chores than with patients — medical staff can now engage with patients through such a “mobile digital assistant” at a deeper and more meaningful level.
We see more opportunities for doctors and hospitals to use telemedicine and other online technologies to deliver healthcare services to patients. More and more routine medical transactions will be conducted online, and the internet will continue to be a primary source of healthcare information.
We are creating an extensive, independent, credible and well-researched database of resources validated by medical professionals for anyone to access. This database includes articles, papers and streaming video assets covering a wide range of illnesses and treatments.
We‘re integrating general public health information, with the overall journey in the healthcare system, such as booking medical appointments, paying hospital bills, purchasing over-the-counter medicine and consulting with doctors via messages or livestreams. The 360 approach allows them to access a network of experienced healthcare providers and ancillary services, from prevention and early screening to treatment.
For medical professionals and organizations, on the other hand, an integrated, digitalized health platform connects them to a wider ecosystem outside hospitals, creating opportunities to develop their specialties and offer better treatment to patients.
Better record management facilitates better health outcomes and improves the patient experience. With patient records available in secure digital format, doctors and nurses can make more timely and informed decisions around effective disease prevention and primary care, targeted and high-quality acute care, and long-term chronic disease management.
Plus, admin tasks like paperwork can be reduced by consolidating patient contact details, medical histories, insurance records and the like all digitally in one place.
As Tencent Healthcare continues to evolve, we will look for ways to continuously refresh and enrich the content on our platform to bring the online and offline healthcare worlds together and create a better patient experience for everyone.