China proposes ban on telehealth and computer-assisted diagnosis

The number of sectors targeted by Chinese government crackdowns — 19 by our count — is growing: This time, digital healthcare is on the chopping block:

  • Doctor’s appointments must be in-person, according to draft rules, and diagnoses cannot be performed by artificial intelligence.
  • Medical staff must not benefit financially in any way from providing patients with drugs or tests, to avoid unnecessary treatment that drives up medical bills.
  • More concerning: all online appointments must be recorded and stored for at least 15 years, and regulators must be allowed to access all video, audio, and photos.

The context: The regulations only target pretty much everything digital healthcare companies do. Telehealth has blown up during the pandemic, and several old and new businesses have stepped in to meet demand, from and Alibaba to Yuanxin Technology, the biggest platform of its kind.

  • In the case of Yuanxin, online visits, prescriptions, and AI were exactly the priorities it’s been focused on ahead of its Hong Kong IPO.

The takeaway: This could be a dead end for a once promising industry: It’s difficult to see what will incentivize companies to continue working on telehealth, since the rules seem to be a blanket ban rather than flexible guidelines for running a healthcare business.

Author: Matthew Silberman, SupChina

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