F012 How advanced is China in digital health? (Miranda Gottlieb, Bay McLaughlin)


While the privacy policies regarding personal data gathering and analysis are getting more restrictive in the West, China is not trying to catch up. The Chinese government is interested in all sorts of data. As long as companies feel comfortable with giving the government access to the company’s serves and patient data, China can be a good development environment.


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If China is becoming the global tech leader, how does that influence healthcare? According to Miranda Gottlieb, expert on global health policy and health security in the Asia-Pacific region, there are a lot of opportunities for companies doing clinical research and data mining.

Bay McLaughlin, Forbes contributor on tech in China and the co-founder of Brinc.io, part incubator, part accelerator, part investment fund with headquarters located in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou and satellite offices in mainland China, also London, Berlin, Helsinki, Amsterdam & soon in the USA.

Brinc.io invested in a few digital health solutions in China, however, McLaughlin says digital health is not a hot topic for this market yet. As a Forbes contributor who regularly follows tech trends in the region, he says healthcare stories are not seen often. 

Healthcare in China consists of both public and private medical institutions and insurance programs. About 95% of the population has at least basic health insurance coverage. The government aims to cut out of pocket healthcare costs and with its policy force its insurance companies to cover 70% of costs by the end of 2018. That’s the theory. According to McLaughlin, it’s sometimes hard to believe statistics or even your eyes when it comes to China. He is therefore very skeptical about 2017 Future Health Index from Philips, in which two-thirds (67%) of the Chinese general population surveyed said they had used connected-care technology to track health indicator(s) in the past 12 months.

in general McLaughlin sees three strategies for companies trying to access the Chinese market:

  • Build a brand overseas and bring it to China.

  • East to East: Move to China and apply your knowledge to the problems in the Chinese market.

  • East to West: Live in China, learn about the local problems and connect with the West to provide a solution.

In episode 12 of Faces of digital health, Miranda and Bay talk about their experience with the healthcare system in China from an individual and professional point of view.

According to Miranda, the national policy is shifting towards increasing primary care to lower the cost and change the habit of visiting specialists before seeing a GP. The challenge is to remove the stigma of primary care being inferior to specialist care.

Miranda talks about the formal structure of Chinese healthcare, followed by thoughts on clinical trials, use of technology and very stigmatizing attitude of the Chinese government towards mental health issues.

Some questions addressed:

  • Adoption of new technologies such as mobile devices, cloud computing, and big-data analytics is on a high level in China. How is that visible in the everyday life in the society, compared to California?

  • What are the opportunities and drawbacks of healthcare companies interested in the Chinese market?

  • What can the West learn from China?

  • Healthcare in China consists of both public and private medical institutions and insurance programs. About 95% of the population has at least basic health insurance coverage. How does that drive the adoption of new technologies — for comparison, Europe is struggling with B2C models …?

See also other country profiles covered in the podcast:

Germany (M011 and 010)


Israel (M017)