When Dai Yufan began developing a fever and painful cyst, her first thought was to see a doctor. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visiting her local hospital seemed scarier than her symptoms.
“So I tried an online health service,” says Dai, 27, an office worker in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. “I asked about my condition via an app and [a doctor online] suggested some medicine and other treatments.”
While the coronavirus has stretched medical services around the world to breaking point, the virus has also fostered a boom in online medical services, known as telehealth. The industry is predicted to be worth almost $30 billion this year in China alone and has the potential to transform Chinese healthcare by reducing strain on urban hospitals and providing a stop-gap solution for rural dwellers.
China already has over 1,000 telehealth companies, according to data firm Tianyancha, including some run by tech giants, Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba. Dai used the Good Doctor subsidiary of Ping An Insurance, which claimed in September to have 300 million registered users. All are seeing a boom in consultations due to lockdown measures. – Time