COVID effects push healthcare into digital embrace
China Daily

A doctor introduces a medical robot that can perform operations to visiting students at Ruijin Hospital Affiliated with Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in Shanghai on Sept 5, 2020. (Photo: China Daily)

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the digital transformation and innovation in China's healthcare industry, experts said.

The industry now adopts a new generation of digital technologies, including cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence.

This has encouraged InterSystems Corp, a US-based software company that offers advanced technologies for data management, integration and analytics, to launch customized solutions for Chinese clients.

InterSystems said it will increase its investment and research in China, to help accelerate the internet-based and smart digital transformation in China's healthcare and other industries.

"China has become a major global player and InterSystems has always recognized China as one of the most important strategic markets all over the world," said Luciano Brustia, regional managing director of Asia-Pacific at InterSystems.

China's market for health services is estimated to reach 16 trillion yuan ($2.4 trillion) by 2030, according to a forecast by the National Health Commission.

The authority has also pledged to advance the development of online diagnosis and treatment as well as internet-based hospitals, which is expected to help ease the pressure on medical institutions offline and contribute to outbreak prevention and control.

Established in 1978, InterSystems provides data technology for extremely critical data in the healthcare, finance, manufacturing and supply chain sectors.

Its cloud-first data platforms address scalability, interoperability, speed, and problems for large organizations around the globe.

It has empowered software applications that support high-quality healthcare services at hundreds of Chinese hospitals and other organizations.

Brustia said the company is now deepening cooperation with Chinese partners in the healthcare industry to launch tailor-made products.

For instance, InterSystems has worked with Beijing United Family Hospital, one of the high-level private medical institutions in China, in the digitalized healthcare information sector to combat COVID-19.

The hospital has a comprehensive medical service system centered on general practice empowered by InterSystems' TrakCare united healthcare information systems, and provides full life-cycle medical services, multi-disciplinary and coordinated diagnosis and treatment.

Brustia said he believes that the Chinese government and the healthcare industry will invest big in enhancing data efficiency to obtain data more quickly and reliably in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Chen Baiping, managing director and partner of consultancy Boston Consulting Group, said the pandemic has underscored the need for digital applications in the healthcare industry.

Chen said major pharmaceutical companies have increased their investments in digitalization, as only 23 percent of them spent more than 10 percent of their total product purchases on digital inputs in 2019. This figure rose to 40 percent in March since the outbreak.

"Only through cloud computing, big data, the internet of things and AI, along with a new generation of digital technologies, can we share the resources, provide the training and guidance, as well as address the imbalance in medical resources," said Guo Yucheng, chairman of the Chinese Health Association.

"The epidemic has shone the spotlight on the opportunities in digital," said Kevin Chang, head of healthcare practice at Bain & Company China.

"To relieve current pain points and prepare for future epidemics, the digitalization of China's healthcare system needs to rapidly advance. Electronic records, digital prescriptions and other IT infrastructure will systematically track and analyze extensive patient data. AI and big data will eventually help hospitals reallocate scarce resources and improve diagnosis accuracy," he said.