GUIYANG, -- Just one year after graduating from medical school, Liu Caihua has already treated more than 10,000 patients.
At 9 a.m., Dr. Liu, 25, put on a white lab coat, closed the door of his office and sat in front of a computer screen. Soon a man in his 70s began a video chat with him via smart phone.
The old man complained he was not sleeping well lately. Liu looked at his blood pressure, medical history and the medications he was taking, told the patient to eat lightly and get some exercise, and offered suggestions for further treatment.
Guizhou Province is tucked away in the mountains of southwest China. Inconvenient transportation has long been a problem for elderly residents who must go visit doctors in cities.
Liu interned in a community hospital for a year during college and knows how difficult it is for some elderly people to see a doctor, as well as how important chronic disease management is for them. "An Internet hospital allows patients with non-critical symptoms to get instant and professional medical opinions via smart phone or TV at home, which helps them develop a habit of chronic disease management.
At the Internet hospital of Longmaster Information and Technology Company, more than 70 doctors work in three shifts to treat up to 6,000 patients a day. "We have also built a platform for doctors at lower-level hospitals to consult with higher-level ones and experts in big cities about patients with serious and complicated diseases," said Wang Jian, executive vice president of Longmaster.
As Dr. Liu was busy receiving patients, Dr. Luo Kalan at Guiyang No. 6 Hospital began an online video consultation with Professor Sheng Qinhui, a renowned cardiovascular expert at Peking University First Hospital in Beijing, to discuss treatment for one of Luo's patients. Wang said 1,000 medical experts had signed up for the platform, which cooperates with more than 200 primary health care institutions and has been used to conduct nearly 7,000 online group consultations across China.
Due to scheduling conflicts, group consultations for one patient are not easy, even within the same hospital. With the ever-expanding talent pool, the platform has become better at matching doctors and organizing group consultations for patients in need. In August 2016, a patient was not recovering after treatment in a local hospital in Guizhou. The Internet hospital reached a neurologist and an orthopedic specialist at two prestigious hospitals in Beijing, who then conducted an hour-long group consultation to help the patient. Wang said a patient with an endocrine condition in northeast China's Tieling City had been suffering from fever for two months, but his doctor was not able to find the cause. After uploading the patient's information to the platform, the local doctor received support from a respiratory specialist in Beijing within just six hours. After 40 minutes of discussion, they made a definitive diagnosis. "Doctors at lower level hospitals are enthusiastic about remote consultations, as they can communicate and learn from senior doctors 'face to face,' while also keeping their patients," Wang said. Besides Guizhou, many provinces in China, including Zhejiang, Sichuan and Shaanxi, have also established Internet-based hospitals to promote medical diagnosis and help patients manage their health. "I have faith in Internet hospital and believe in building a career as an Internet doctor," Liu said.