Beijing has begun issuing electronic health cards to residents through WeChat in a pilot program facilitated by Tencent and Sinosoft Technology. Currently, patients at Peking University Hospital and Beijing Friendship Hospital can benefit from the service.

An image of the digital health card in WeChat (Image Credit: Tencent Technology News)

According to reports (in Chinese), the digital cards are part of a broader plan to improve healthcare services by 2030. Their implementation comes as part of a move to standardize patient information. The pilot hopes to explore possible applications of the virtual card in the Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei urban areas, with plans to eventually integrate patient information from the three regions.

The virtual health card is currently available through Peking University Hospital’s official WeChat account. Beijing Friendship University is presently unable to issue cards as it is in the process of debugging its card-issuing platform.

The digitization of government-issued cards in a popular trend in China. Officials hope not only to increase convenience but also improve the integrity of personal data. In April 2018, the government in Jiangxi province issued the first batch of ID chips for smartphone users. The smart chips, dubbed SIMeID,  attach to the phone’s SIM card and can store sensitive identifying information for safer verification over the internet.

Both Tencent and Alibaba have also trialed digitized versions of China’s ubiquitous ID cards. Alibaba is currently trialing its Alipay-based digital IDs in Hangzhou and Quzhou in Zhejiang province, and Fuzhou in Fujian province. The virtual IDs allow their users to book train tickets and check into hotels but are only accepted by local authorities.

Tencent began issuing ID cards though WeChat in December 2017. The cards were first provided in the southern city of Guangzhou.