Choosing a healthcare provider is one of the most important decisions in life. Yet, it is often one of the least informed. Most people can get little information about the quality or even the price of medical treatment.
The Beijing subsidiary of California-based MedImpact Healthcare Systems, Inc has created a WeChat application, Meideyi, designed to address the information problem for a part of the market－private dental clinics in four major cities.
About half of China's 120 billion yuan ( billion) dental-care market is provided by large State-owned hospitals, but lots of people, especially busy professionals with children, prefer the scheduling convenience and friendly service of a small private clinic. But, the 65,000 such clinics in China vary widely in price and quality. There's no evidence that the most expensive ones actually provide better treatment. So, how is a customer to choose?
Sally Yang, general manager of MedImpact Beijing, said that the company's employees visited thousands of clinics in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen and rated each on the basis of observable factors, including use of proper equipment, professional qualifications of the dentists, the implementation of processes to protect patients, and whether the sources of materials are reputable. These standards were based on the metrics of the United States-based Joint Commission Hospital Standards and Accreditation Process. The 200 dental clinics that were judged acceptable are listed on the WeChat application, along with list prices of all provided dental procedures. Patient reviews of each clinic are also included on the application.
The large German insurance and reinsurance group Munich Re, in a report issued on Tuesday, predicted fast growth in the private healthcare insurance market in China.
Looking specifically at dental clinics, Bill Bossany, deputy chief executive of Munich Re, Beijing (health branch), said: "The dental insurance market in China has been underserved in recent years and is still in its early development. An enhancement like this offering, especially if combined with dental care and insurance plus claims processing, dental networks, and the related management, is a step in the right direction".
Robert Zou, chairman and chief executive officer of Arrail Dental International Group, said in an interview with China Daily that Medimpact's dental information application could be very good for customers if handled the right way. However, Medimpact needs to be careful to stay within regulatory guidelines that limit claims that one medical service is better than others. Furthermore, the app needs to avoid the kinds of conflicts of interest that we have seen at Baidu.
According to Yang, Meideyi will have a business model based on (1) working with insurance companies to process claims, (2) advertising, and (3) arranging with the clinics to offer customer discounts, of which MedImpact would receive a portion.
Medimpact's primary business in the US is as a pharmaceutical benefits manager, or PBM, meaning that it contracts with health insurance companies to monitor drug use at the point of sale. The pharmacist uses the company's software and systems to ensure that the drug is covered under the patient's plan. Plus, MedImpact will warn the pharmacist if there are dangerous drug interactions or other problems that could harm the patient. The company also negotiates with pharmaceutical manufacturers on behalf of insurance companies for lower drug prices. According to analysis by Health Strategies Group, it is the fourth largest PBM in the US.
The company got into the China market in 2011 and started by providing a rational drug use software to large public hospitals.
"This is only part of the functionality of a PBM, but we have to be flexible in customizing our solution to fit the China market", Yang said.
The company sees its 70-person office in Beijing as a long-term investment. Its primary business goal is to position itself to grow as China's ongoing healthcare reform leads to growing private healthcare and health insurance sectors.
"China is our No. 1 and No. 2 priority internationally," Yang said.
"We are long-term focused and are willing to build innovative solutions that fit the local needs－the dental platform is an example."