Alibaba has been testing a mobile app named
Ali-Health (our translation) alijk which is expected to launch this month. (Update: the app has been available on Chinese Android app stores such as Wandoujia’s since December 1st.)
With the app, users will be able to purchase medicines after uploading photos of doctors’ prescriptions, according to screenshots Technode has seen. Users can also type in or speak to enter detailed information about the medication.
The Ali-Health app sends the photo of a prescription to pharmacies nearest to the user who will see the prices offered by those who’d like to take the order. After choosing a pharmacy and making the payment, the user only needs to wait for the delivery person to come to their home.
The discounts currently available on the app are rated about 20% lower than average market prices and save consumers up to 50% in total spend. For a long time Chinese state-owned hospitals, which account for the majority of hospitals or clinics available in China, have made the lion’s share of their income through medicine sales. With little competition, drugs sold at those hospitals are consequently often overpriced and doctors are inclined to over-prescribe medicines. There’s no doubt Chinese consumers will be motivated to use a app like Alibaba’s.
The app is from Alibaba Health Information Technology Ltd., formerly CITIC 21CN in which Alibaba and Yunfeng Capital (a venture capital fund co-founded by Alibaba chairman Jack Ma) jointly acquired a 54.3% stake in January this year. CITIC 21CN had a vast pool of pharmaceutical product data and reportedly was the only third party in China that had obtained a license for online drug sales before Alibaba bought into it. Currently only a limited number of healthcare products or medical devices are allowed to be sold online.
CITIC 21CN has also built an electronic supervision barcode system for medicines, allowing users of the Taobao and Alipay apps to scan barcodes on drug packages to find detailed information about them since July this year. Alibaba calls it the “safe drug plan”.
Alibaba announced a Future Hospital plan in May this year. Apart from services like barcode scanning, Alipay, the mobile payment app of Alibaba’s finance arm, has enabled scheduling hospital appointments through the platform.
Another Chinese internet giant Tencent is also eyeing the healthcare market. Like Alipay, WeChat has also enabled appointment scheduling and mobile payment. Tencent has invested in two Chinese online healthcare companies, DXY and Guahao, who are working on similar programs: getting doctors and patients onto one platform to interact with each other. DXY also owns a considerable pool of pharmaceutical products data.
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)