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Amazon Wants to Disrupt Health Care in America. In China, Tech Giants Already Have.

12 February 2018

From The New York Times:

Amazon and two other American titans are trying to shake up health care by experimenting with their own employees’ coverage. By Chinese standards, they’re behind the curve.

Technology companies like Alibaba and Tencent have made health care a priority for years, and are using China as their laboratory. After testing online medical advice and drug tracking systems, they are now focused on a more advanced tool: artificial intelligence.

Their aggressive push underscores the differences between the health care systems in China and the United States.

Chinese hospitals are overburdened, with just 1.5 doctors for every 1,000 people — barely half the figure in the United States. Along with a rapidly aging population, China also has the largest number of obese children in the world, as well as more diabetes patients than anywhere else.

. . . .

Alibaba and Tencent, which already dominate China’s e-commerce and mobile payments sectors, are at the forefront. Among their goals: building diagnostic tools that will make doctors more efficient.

. . . .

“It’s fair to say that across the board, the Chinese tech companies have all embraced being involved in and being active in the health care space, unlike the U.S., where some of them have and some have not,” said Laura Nelson Carney, an Asia-Pacific health care analyst at Bernstein Research.

. . . .

Last year, Alibaba’s health unit introduced A.I. software that can help interpret CT scans and an A.I. medical lab to help doctors make diagnoses. About a month later, Tencent unveiled Miying, a medical imaging program that helps doctors detect early signs of cancer, in the southwestern region of Guangxi. It is now used in nearly 100 hospitals across China.

. . . .

There are just 20 eye doctors for every million people here, a third of the proportion in the United States. In April, Beijing announced an ambitious plan for the country’s 110 million diabetics to undergo eye tests.

“It’s impossible for one person to read that many images,” said Dr. Yu.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Jan for the tip.

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2 Comments to “Amazon Wants to Disrupt Health Care in America. In China, Tech Giants Already Have.”

  1. The last thing America needs right now is for someone to disrupt the health insurance field even more, and thus disrupt health care again. *sigh*

    (And yes, I have some very strong opinions on federal government, health insurance, and similar topics. But this is a PG-13 blog, so I will keep them to myself.)

  2. I’m from Australia so we have a very different attitude to health care, but I won’t get into that topic either. What I will say, however, is that few in the West have any idea how /huge/ Alibaba and Tencent are. They dwarf Amazon and Walmart combined.
    Yes, we can ignore their disruption of health care for now, but in the very near future globalisation and competition are going to demand that we in the West keep up with /them/. Not the other way around.
    Amazon realises this and is positioning itself sooner rather than later. The disruption will come. The only question is how far behind we fall.

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