On September 12, 2016, the Guizhou Human Resources and Social Security Bureau announced that certain qualified telemedicine services are now reimbursable under the Chinese social insurance program. The pilot program, which started August 1, 2016, will last for one year. Guizhou Province is the first province in China to adopt such a policy at the provincial level. Under the program, the following nine items are reimbursable: (i) single disciplinary consultations, (ii) multidisciplinary consultations, (iii) traditional Chinese medicine treatment consultations, (iv) synchronous pathological consultations, (v) asynchronous pathological consultations, (vi) electrocardiogram consultations, (vii) medical image consultations, (viii) inspection and diagnoses, and (ix) pathological diagnoses. To qualify for reimbursement, these telemedicine services must be carried out through a provincial telemedicine platform and must be performed on behalf of patients who are hospitalized. If an insured patient or his/her family members unilaterally ask for telemedicine services under other circumstances, the service would not be reimbursable.
China has published various rules and policies promoting telemedicine services, and many businesses are interested in developing this market. However, one of the main hurdles is that telemedicine services are not covered by the Chinese social insurance program. Although this new policy adopted by Guizhou Province is just a provincial policy, is still in a pilot phase, and applies to only a few limited circumstances, it is widely viewed as a positive step for the entire Chinese health care industry. Other provinces are expected to issue similar policies, paving the way for a more open and accessible telemedicine market for both the Chinese patients and the businesses involved.
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