Source: Beijing Review Published: 2020-08-07
For those who have experienced the hardship of waiting in line at hospitals, the advent of online diagnosis is a boon.
"Send your request, and you'll get answered in 10 minutes with more than 230,000 doctors ready to respond." This is what an Internet medical service platform promises its users.
The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hindered normal operation in a majority of hospitals, making contactless diagnosis and treatment preferred by many patients, which increased the market expectations on Internet healthcare.
It's estimated the market scale of Internet healthcare will hit 200 billion yuan ($28.65 billion) in 2020, up 46.7 percent year on year, reaching a record high since 2015, according to consultancy Analysys.
With huge market potential, the industry is also getting policy support as the State Council issued a guideline on July 21 to include Internet healthcare services into the national healthcare reimbursement system, which was available only for offline treatment.
The move portends new industrial transformation opportunities and is expected to engage more participants in the industry including traditional Chinese medicine, a recent report by Haitong Securities, a Shanghai-based securities brokerage, said. According to the report, online healthcare payment will reach 597 billion yuan ($85.5 billion) by 2025, in which reimbursement payment will increase from zero to 105.7 billion yuan ($15.1 billion).
Lowering market-entry threshold for medical services constitutes only part of the highlights of the guideline, which aims at further optimizing the business environment and better serving market entities.
It also stresses six categories of policies and measures, including more streamlined and efficient approval procedures for construction projects and their financing, easier approval processes and conditions for enterprises, and an optimized business environment for foreign trade and investment.
In recent years, China has been improving its business environment. Reforms to streamline administration and delegate power, improve regulation, and upgrade services have become essential in the government work reports each year.
In 2019, a regulation was released on optimizing the business environment. Effective from January 1 this year, it serves as legal guarantee for a long-term mechanism for business-environment improvement.
According to the World Bank's Doing Business 2020, China ranked 31st globally for ease of doing business in 2019, up from 46th in 2018. It has joined the ranks of the world's 10 most improved economies for ease of doing business for two consecutive years thanks to its robust reform agenda.
However, there are shortcomings and weaknesses. Especially with the impact of COVID-19, difficulties encountered by the enterprises have escalated, requiring the authorities to focus more on the needs of market entities, go in line with international advanced standards and adopt more reform measures to crack the challenges in production and operation. They should strengthen services for the market entities and accelerate the pace to build a marketized, legalized and internationalized business environment, according to the guideline.
Experts said there is a big gap among different regions regarding the business environment. It's easier to establish companies and acquire electricity connection and construction approval in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. But in undeveloped areas, there are still shortcomings in government supervision and services.
Bian Yongzu, a researcher with Chongyang Institute of Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, told China Economic Times that the measures will address the existing shortcomings and accelerate the pace of improvement.
They indicate the government's resolution to deepen the reform, which will strengthen the confidence of companies, investors and residents in China's economic prospects and pull the economy back to the normal track as soon as possible.
Measures on new business forms are the highlights of the guideline. Apart from Internet healthcare, intelligent connected vehicles (ICVs) are also on the list. It says the test standards of ICVs' autonomous driving functions should be unified and the test results should be shared nationwide.
For data sharing in the public service sector, it proposes to establish and improve data publication and sharing rules for government and public institutions and promote the orderly opening of data in public service such as transportation, road administration, medical health and elderly care.
"The application of big data has been put forward for several years, but data sharing was not fully implemented in some sectors including data from urban transportation." Lin Jiang, a professor of economics, Lingnan (University) College, told 21st Century Business Herald. "But it's important to protect privacy while sharing data, which needs rules and regulations."
The guideline also emphasizes support for employment and entrepreneurship and the necessity to lower market-entry access in the education and sports sectors.
It stresses removal of operational and investment barriers for foreign-invested and foreign-trade firms such as offering cities at or above prefecture level the authority to register foreign-invested firms.
While chairing a symposium with entrepreneurs on July 21, President Xi Jinping urged efforts to spur the vitality of market entities and promote entrepreneurship, enabling enterprises to play a bigger role and achieve greater development.
Xi said it is important to enhance policy-based support to stimulate the vitality of market entities so that they can not only survive but also thrive.
"In a market economy, market entities are like fish while the business environment is water. If the water quality is good, there will be more fish; if it is not, there will be few or no fish," Kuang Xianming, Director of the Economic Research Center at the China Institute for Reform and Development, told Shenzhen Special Zone Daily.
He said the water quality depends on the relationship between the government and market. Taking into account the complex domestic and international situation, there is an urgent need to optimize the business environment. The guideline serves as a crucial reference for national-level action.
Kuang also said the guideline will significantly lower the cost of investment and uncertainty in investment, and a commitment-based system of enterprises will become a normal state.
To reduce restrictions on the investment and operation of foreign trade and investment companies, they will be allowed to submit their written commitment in line with domestic standards and then sell products in the markets directly. Governments will play a different role from pre-implementation approval to supervision during and after the implementation.
He said the guideline also highlights the establishment of a long-term mechanism for business environment improvement such as a regular government-enterprise connection mechanism to strengthen ties between governments, companies, industrial associations and chambers of commerce.
Overall, it will give market entities a more stable expectation on policy support and unleash the internal vitality and power of the market economy, he added.
Bian Yongzu is a research fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.
A distinguished panel of experts attending an e-symposium organized by TRENDS Research & Advisory on Wednesday (September 9, 2020) urged the media and think-tanks worldwide to engage more for the cause of public good during times of crisis. Dr. Wang Wen was invited to delivery a keynote speech.