Liu Meihua used to take a seven-hour bus ride and wait in long lines at Chongqing's Southwest Hospital for his monthly checkup after undergoing liver cancer surgery in August.|
Now the 65-year-old needs to travel just one hour from his village in Fengjie county to a clinic where he can talk with his doctor over a direct video link.
He receives treatment from medics in his village, while specialists online can check on him and refer him to a large county hospital or Southwest Hospital for further treatment, if necessary.
The system Liu uses is a pilot medical platform built by the Fengjie county and Chongqing governments along with Alibaba Health. It is the first such system to link village clinics with large hospitals.
After a trial, the platform was officially launched last week at Zhuping village under a public-private partnership between Alibaba Health and local institutions including the Southwest Hospital, the Fengjie County People's Hospital and the Fengjie County Poverty Alleviation Office.
Known locally as the Internet Hospital, it links dozens of villages and helps thousands of locals like Liu who have fallen into poverty due to a major illness, said Alibaba Health Vice-President Ma Li, who referred to the platform as Internet Hospital 2.0.
"By connecting village doctors, county hospitals and provincial hospitals via the internet, this platform improves the efficiency of medical resource utilization, and helps to promote the establishment and refinement of a tiered medical services system," Ma said.
High on the agenda of the country's healthcare reforms, tiered medical services are key to equal access to proper medical care and enhancing overall efficiency, said Jin Xiaotao, deputy director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
Telemedicine is a booming business, with statistics from health authorities showing more than 20 companies operating internet hospitals.