Artificial intelligence (AI) can ease the strain on China’s overburdened healthcare industry while increasing access to higher quality health services, said Ericson Chan, CEO of Pingan Technology.

Why it matters: Just 8% of China’s hospitals have received a triple-A grade, a classification that is reserved the specialized healthcare facilities. According to Chan, these hospitals service 50% of all patients in the country.

  • The majority of China’s premier hospitals are found in large cities like Beijing and Shanghai, creating an unequal distribution of health services.

“You need to wait for more than three hours before you can see a doctor, and the consultations are no more than seven or eight minutes.” —Ericson Chan, CEO of Pingan Technology, told CNBC

Details: AI could help to alleviate some of these problems, as well as the issue of overworked doctors. China currently employs around two physicians per 1,000 patients. Nonetheless, in order for the technology to be effective, startups and tech companies need to understand the bottlenecks that businesses encounter, Chan said.

  • AI could address issues beyond efficiency. In some cases, algorithms have been able to outperform some physicians when diagnosing certain diseases.
  • Researchers from China and the US earlier this year trained an AI using electronic records from 1.3 million patient visits to a hospital in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. It was able to meet the number of correct diagnoses and even beat those of junior physicians for ailments ranging from asthma to sinusitis.

Context: Pingan’s focus is applying AI in various industries including healthcare, finance, and smart cities. The company said it has developed a system that can predict how likely a patient is to suffer from a chronic illness before symptoms develop.

  • Chan said that aside from diagnosis, Pingan’s AI can follow up with patients who are already receiving treatment.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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