Ping An Good Doctor, China’s largest online healthcare platform, is completely swapping out its senior management. According to reports from Caixin, the move may foreshadow greater integration between Ping An’s patient- and provider-facing platforms.

Why it matters: Ping An Good Doctor may have the most users of any online healthcare platform in China, but so far it hasn’t turned a profit. Ditching its ex-Alibaba leadership might signal a change from e-commerce-style tactics that have focused mostly on growth.

  • One major difference between online healthcare and e-commerce: limitations on supply. Fearful of losing talent, some hospitals have restricted their staff from working with Ping An.
  • That could be one reason for Ping An to engage existing providers more directly, as the company figures out its shift from growth to monetization.
  • Right now, Ping An Good Doctor focuses on online medical consultations, making healthcare more accessible to patients.
  • But the new CEO, Fang Weihao, was already the CEO of Ping An HealthKonnect, which instead works with healthcare providers.
  • Caixin’s sources suggest we can expect greater integration between the two.

Details: At the end of 2019, Ping An Good Doctor had 3 million monthly paying users and 66.9 million monthly active users. Its total number of registered users was 315.2 million.

  • Yet the company was still far from turning a profit. It lost RMB 734 million (USD 105 million) in 2019—an improvement from 2018 (with losses of RMB 913 million).
  • That pattern of growth speaks to the company’s management style—four out of five of the departing managers, including the ex-CEO Wang Tao, are Alibaba alumni.
  • A supplementary announcement (in Chinese) on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange says it let Wang Tao go because of “not having met the expectations of the board of directors.”
  • A Ping An Good Doctor representative said that the new CEO would work to “provide users with integrated on- and offline healthcare services, and achieve long-term, sustainable, and healthy development.”

Context: There’s no doubt that Covid-19 has helped boost Ping An Good Doctor’s growth. The company saw 1.1 billion app visits during the height of the outbreak, not to mention a tenfold increase in new registrations. Unfortunately for Wang Tao, that wasn’t enough.

  • This decision comes amidst an ongoing trademark battle (in Chinese) with a Sichuan company over the “Good Doctor” brand. Ping An lost this battle, and had to fork out RMB 3 million and run a newspaper apology, but for now is still using the name.
  • But according to a report from Citi (in Chinese), the leadership change shouldn’t change Ping An Good Doctor’s long-term valuation. The online healthcare industry still has central government backing, and the new CEO is internal to Ping An, which should ease the transition.

Shaun Ee is a Yenching Scholar working at the intersection of geopolitics, tech, and national security. Before moving to Beijing, he was assistant director at the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft...