China - Regulatory Update on Online Medical Services - China National Health Commission issues regulatory rules for comments to return Internet diagnosis and treatment to the essence of medical care

2021-11-25 10:35:31

The National Health Commission recently issued the "Announcement on Public Comment on Regulations for Internet Diagnosis and Treatment (Draft for Comment)" ("Draft for Comments"), which covers the supervision of medical institutions, personnel supervision, business supervision, quality and safety supervision of Internet diagnosis and treatment, Regulatory responsibilities and many other aspects.


This year's government work report proposes to support the society to run medical services and promote the standardized development of "Internet + medical health". The "Draft Opinions" made specific provisions on how to promote the development of the "Internet + Medical and Health" norms.


Continuing the principle of traceability and responsibility

According to data from the National Health Commission, the number of Internet hospitals in China has exceeded 1,600. For the fast-growing Internet medical industry, the release of the "Drafts of Opinions" will allow Internet medical services to bid farewell to the "barbaric growth" of the past and enter a stage of standardized and high-quality development.

The implementation of the detailed rules of the Opinion Draft also released a clear signal that Internet diagnosis and treatment should be as "homogenous" as the diagnosis and treatment services provided by physical institutions, so that Internet diagnosis and treatment should return to the fundamental positioning of medical services. "The specific content of this document basically continues the principle of traceability throughout the entire process and the reverse of responsibility." said the deputy director of the Health Industry Development Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "The online and offline requirements are more clearly consistent. Many requirements are the The basic requirements of physical medical institutions."

The implementation of new regulatory regulations in the future will also have varying degrees of impact on various medical institutions and enterprises that provide Internet diagnosis and treatment services. On the whole, the all-round supervision that the "Draft of Opinions" intends to achieve has greatly raised the barriers to entry for the industry, which is conducive to those Internet diagnosis and treatment platforms that have a strong foundation in platform technology and operation and provide serious medical services.


"Isolate" Internet diagnosis and treatment from drug sales

The "Draft of Opinions" proposes to expressly prohibit some Internet diagnosis and treatment and prescription activities. "Physicians must perform real-name authentication before providing a consultation to ensure that they practice medical services by themselves.

Other personnel, artificial intelligence software, etc. shall not be fraudulently used or be substitute for the doctor to provide medical consultation.

"This requirement restricts some of the current behaviors in the market that use AI technology to provide consultation services, so as to prevent various platforms from using non-practicing physicians and AI software as tools for consultation and prescription.


"The personal income of medical and health personnel shall not be linked to the income of drugs and medical examinations",

"Doctors are not allowed to advise patients to purchase medicines and medical consumables at designated locations."

This means that "isolating" Internet diagnosis and treatment from drug sales and preventing Internet diagnosis and treatment platforms from "alienating" diagnosis and treatment behaviors into prescription drug marketing tools will also pose a challenge to some prescription outflows and DTP pharmacies in the market.

With the reform of the pharmaceutical circulation field, some marketing methods have been transferred to the online, and the problem of relying on medicines for medical care and even rebates has appeared online, which has brought great challenges to the long-term development of Internet medical care. The document clarifies that these violations cannot be done, especially the income of medicines and the income of doctors cannot be directly linked. This is also what we have been calling for, do not let the offline problems solved by the medical reform be transferred to the online.


After the official implementation of the "Internet Diagnosis and Treatment Regulations" announced this time, the establishment of uniform standards for Internet diagnosis and treatment services, the realization of data interconnection, data sharing and other functions promoted by it will be more conducive to the scale of medical insurance funds for the payment of Internet diagnosis and treatment services.


This will be a new benefit for the Internet hospital platforms that have incorporated online medical insurance payment in various places. In fact, whether to pay for medical insurance has become the "gold standard" for judging the gold content of Internet diagnosis and treatment services. The access of National Medical Insurance as the largest single payer is obviously conducive to the further expansion of China's online diagnosis and treatment service market.


At the same time, it is worth noting that the regulatory rules have no requirements on the range of charges and pricing for Internet diagnosis and treatment, which means that the regulatory rules give the pricing power to institutions that provide Internet diagnosis and treatment services. That is, public medical institutions implement public welfare pricing in accordance with public hospitals, and market-oriented third-party platforms operate in accordance with market principles. This is also good for profitable Internet diagnosis and treatment platforms to form their own competitiveness.


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