Several hospitals in China have signed up to tap Alibaba's e-payment platform, Alipay, to enable patients to book medical appointments, pay their bills, and receive test results via their mobile devices.
The service will cut waiting time and long queues at the country's crowded healthcare facilities, paving the way for better service and operational efficiency, said Alibaba. Five hospitals have signed up for the program that allows Alipay users to link their accounts with the respective hospital's booking and payment systems, allowing the users to book and pay through their
Alipay Wallet mobile app. Located in Hangzhou, Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital is the latest to participate in the initiative, joining four other hospitals including Guangzhou Women and Children's Hospital and Nanchang 334 Hospital.
"Currently, it's very troublesome to visit the hospital. Patients have to come to the hospital at 6a.m. or 7a.m. to get a queue number," Liu Limin, deputy director of Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital, said during a media briefing Tuesday. "With this Alipay tie-up, hospital visits will no longer be troublesome because visitors can make appointments at home using their phones."
There are plans to extend the Alipay service to integrate patients' medical records with hospital databases, to facilitate real-time consultation with doctors over the phone, said Wang Lijuan, general manager of online-to-offline business for Alibaba's small and micro financial services group. In the next 18 months, hospital databases also will be linked to insurance services providers so billing can be processed accordingly, Wang added.
According to the Chinese e-commerce giant, Alipay executives are working with 50 hospitals on various IT development efforts. Earlier this month, the company launched an app to allow users to scan barcodes on pharmaceutical or medical boxes to access various information about the product including its authenticity, origins, and ingredients. The app is integrated into the Alipay Wallet as well as its shopping app Mobile Taobao.
Citing stats from McKinsey, Alibaba said China's healthcare sector is projected to grow almost three-fold in 2011 to US$1 trillion by 2020.