China will greenlight medical institutions to conduct Internet medical services as part of a broader push to promote Internet Plus healthcare.
Medical institutions will be allowed to provide online diagnostic services for some common and chronic diseases in patients' follow-up visits to their doctors, according to a statement released after a State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang Thursday.
The top two levels of hospitals within the country's three-tier hospital system are encouraged to provide online services including consultation reservation and test result inquiry.
"The development of Internet Plus Healthcare is a major initiative to enhance our country's public health services. It will also help facilitate overall economic and social development," Li said.
"As China joins the ranks of middle-income countries, the demand for health services has increased substantially. The Internet Plus Healthcare can help alleviate the problem of inaccessible and expensive public health services that have long been a big concern for the general public," he said.
According to the Healthy China 2030 Blueprint released in October 2016, efforts will be made to foster new industries, new forms and models of business in the health sector and to develop Internet-based health services.
The intelligent review for health insurance will be vigorously applied and the one-stop settlement will be brought forward. The real-time sharing of prescription and drug retail sales within medical institutions will be explored. The system of Internet Plus healthcare standards will be further refined, according to the statement.
China will speed up the inter-connectivity and sharing of medical information, and beef up the quality supervision of medical services and information security.
"We must waste no time in pushing forward the measures once the decision is made. In recent years, top-level hospitals in major cities have seen steady increases in the number of out-patients. Medical bills became a heavy burden on families, and high-end medical resources still fall short of meeting the growing demand of the public," Li said.
He said that to solve the problem, a two-pronged approach must be taken.
One is to establish medical partnerships such as healthcare consortiums to enhance the cooperation and coordination between major hospitals and community clinics.
The other is to bring forward Internet Plus Healthcare to facilitate the sharing of quality medical resources.
The government will see to it that long-distance healthcare services cover all healthcare consortiums and county-level hospitals, and the quality medical resources in the country's eastern areas be also made available to the central and western regions.
More efforts will be made to ensure that high-speed broadband network will be extended to cover medical institutions at all levels in urban and rural areas. Dedicated Internet access services will be set up to meet the need for long-distance healthcare services.
"Anything involving human life is of utmost importance. The government must step up financial support to establish dedicated Internet access services for medical purposes and increase the supply of high-end medical equipment at central hospitals in remote areas," Li said.
"Meanwhile, the government must enact related supportive policies, exercise prudent supervision and set up a sustainable mechanism to effectively tackle this important issue of public well-being," Li added.