File Photo: The National Health Commission (Photo: VCG)
The National Health Commission published three regulations governing online medical services on Friday to set standards for market access and enhance supervision of the booming industry.
The online medical services market has grown rapidly in the past seven years, with more than 1,000 companies formed between 2011 and 2016 and at least 200 billion yuan ($30 billion) invested in the industry, the financial news outlet Yicai reported recently.
"In the regulations, we highlight comprehensive supervision of the credentials of medical practitioners, diagnoses and treatment, prescriptions and information security," said Jiao Yahui, the commission's deputy chief for medical administration and supervision.
She said the regulation of online medical services is challenging, and regulatory measures should emphasize building a community of shared responsibility between online and brick-and-mortar hospitals.
The regulations require online medical services providers to be based on or to cooperate with offline hospitals.
"A third-party developer of online medical consultations is entitled to market access on the condition that it works with a brick-and-mortar institution," Jiao said. "Purely virtual medical services are prohibited."
She said the approval process for providers of online medical services will start after regulatory platforms are set up at the provincial level.
In addition, online medical services will be limited to patients making follow-up visits based on previous diagnoses from offline physicians. First-time patients will be excluded from online services, the regulations say.