Telemedicine continues to attract international attention, with China on track to become one of the largest telemedicine markets in the world.

Just a year after the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China (NHFPC) began promoting the development of a national telemedicine network in China, multiple telemedicine pilots are already being implemented at the provincial level. This will strengthen the foundation at local levels in China for the expansion of telemedicine opportunities for U.S. health care businesses.

According to a recent report from the Sichuan Provincial Government, Sichuan is the first to release provincial-level Guidance on Family Telemedicine Pilot Programs. The Guidance states that before medical institutions and medical practitioners can offer family-focused telemedicine services, they must obtain a corresponding “Certificate Authority” (CA) certificate, which will be issued by the Sichuan Family Telemedicine Center to qualified medical institutions and by qualified medical institutions to their registered practitioners.

Medical institutions providing family telemedicine services must:

  • Be a tier-2, grade 1 medical institution or above;
  • Have relevant departments corresponding to the telemedicine practice areas, as well as relevant qualified personnel, technology, equipment and facilities.

Medical practitioners providing family telemedicine services must:

  • Register at a tier-2, grade 1 medical institution or above
  • Must have practiced for at least three years; and
  • Must pass the required training and examination at the Sichuan Family Telemedicine Center.

Moreover, the Guidance requires that patients receiving family telemedicine services register using their real names.

The Sichuan University Huaxi Hospital and the Provincial People’s Hospital will be the first two Sichuan hospitals to launch telemedicine pilots. Per the Provincial Government announcement, by the end of 2015, each of the 21 cities in Sichuan Province will have one hospital participating in the telemedicine pilot program. In 2016, Sichuan Province will expand the telemedicine pilot program to build a 4-tier telemedicine system (i.e., a program with pilots at the province, city, county, and village levels).

In addition to Sichuan, Hunan Province is also spearheading a telemedicine pilot program. In Hunan, the Provincial Second People’s Hospital has been providing telemedicine services since October 2015. Currently, the telemedicine services provided by the Hunan Provincial Second People’s Hospital are offered for free, but are primarily limited to psychiatry, psychology and family medicine areas. Hunan Province is promoting the use of electronic prescriptions and electronic medical records. However, telemedicine-prescribed medicines are not reimbursable in the currently effective China medical insurance system in Hunan province.