The projected timeline for adopting digital medical services is becoming significantly shorter due to the impacts of Covid-19.

Prior to the outbreak, Chinese consumers typically visited physical institutions for their healthcare needs. Digital adoption was low, with only 24% of Chinese respondents using telemedicine. However, 97% said they would be interested in digital health services if the costs were covered by an insurance provider or employer. Additionally, 64% expected to use telemedicine within the next five years.

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This timeline may now become significantly shorter, as consumers are forced to rapidly develop their digital habits and become more willing to pay for online services during the epidemic.

China’s digital medical services are growing explosively as the coronavirus rages on

Trapped at home due to government quarantines and travel restrictions, many people have turned to Internet-based options for diagnosis and treatment. Ping An Good Doctor, a healthcare services platform, had a nearly 900% increase in new users from December 2019, before the World Healthcare Organization (WHO) identified the virus, to January 2020, when the virus spread across China.

Ding Xiang Yuan, an online community for healthcare professionals, and Chunyu Doctor, a telemedicine platform, have also experienced dramatic surges in the number of online users and visits.

This is a clear sign that the Covid-19 epidemic will reshape patient behaviour and accelerate the digitalisation of China’s healthcare system.

Outbreak is also likely to drive the digital healthcare revolution

Telemedicine is now becoming a key player globally as the pandemic continues. Robotic devices and camera technology are being used with coronavirus patients and in broader communication during the crisis.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in Texas, the first in the US, led to years of study on emergency response and the integration of robotics with medicine to help limit pathways for a highly contagious disease to spread.

According to medical research scientists, robotic medicine may be the weapon the world needs to combat threats such as coronavirus. There is a growing pressure to come up with basic automated solutions, such as robots performing routine medical work for contagious patients.

However, the aim is to do so without replacing or eliminating health-care workers. Instead, freeing up medical staff so they can spend more time on direct care, as well as reduce the risk of their exposure.

Viral outbreaks like Covid-19 highlight the growing role new medical technology can play in fighting the spread of novel infectious diseases in the future. Extreme cases such as this make us rethink how we do things, but medical experts warn it is a mistake if innovation rolls out only when the world is on edge.