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Using remote monitoring technology to treat patients

Reporter: Mi Jiayi 丨 CCTV.com

09-23-2016 10:57 BJT

A hospital in Shanghai is using a new system that will make medical check-ups faster and easier. CCTV reporter Mi Jiayi visited to see how China's technological boom is improving healthcare services in the country.

Chen Li has cardio problems that require her to see a doctor frequently. At the end of last year, the hospital she goes to gave her a portable cardiograph to monitor her heart condition.

The machine also transmits her data in real time back to the hospital. Chen says she's very happy to try the new technology.

"My work is very busy and stressful, so I suffer from an abnormal heartbeat. When that happened in the past, I had to leave work and go to hospital, and wait in line there," she said.

"But with the new technology, I can call my doctor at the cloud hospital whenever I need help. They can tell me what to do. I think it's very helpful for people like me."

The "cloud hospital" Chen mentioned is one of Shanghai's first hospitals to adopt remote monitor functions for its patients.

It not only receives live data, but also has doctors waiting online to answer patients' questions when they have a problem.

Impressive as that is, however, it's not all this new technology can do.

"We've established big-data analysis for our patients. All their information is in there, and we research to try to find the incidence trends of various cardio diseases, especially abnormal heartbeat," said Professor Zheng Hongchao, Shanghai Xuhui District Central Hospital.

Zheng says that the system is still quite small, now serving only around 50 patients, but there are plans to enlarge it. That won't be cheap, however.

The system itself is sponsored by the government, to the tune of 20 million yuan.

That support allows the hospital to rent the equipment to patients at reasonable rates. There's still one problem, however.

"The biggest problem is that the patients' fees are still not included in health-care insurance. Many hospitals are subsidizing these projects, to promote the new technology. And some internet companies are trying to attract investment from the capital markets to develop the sector," said Professor John Cai, China Europe International Business School.

"However, neither of these are a good business model, so it's important to try to get these programs included in the social security system. If you take a look at the US market, you'll see that many such remote treatments are already included in the national health-care program, so their market is much bigger than China's."

Cai says that since the technology has not yet been widely adopted, it's hard to estimate the size of the potential market.

He is hoping for policies that will support the technology by solving problems like insurance plan payments.

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