This post is the fifth in Foley's blog series, "Realizing the Potential of Telemedicine in China," meant to address top issues facing U.S. companies looking to enter the Chinese telemedicine market.

A China government policy development program uses telemedicine as the lynchpin in China's promotion of healthcare services for the elderly, including accelerated pilot programs for telemedicine services at elder care institutions in the Beijing municipality and Hubei and Yunnan provinces. Read our discussion below, plus access our exclusive Chinese-to-English translation of the official notice.

As we work with an increasing number of U.S.-based healthcare providers and academic medical centers to build China telemedicine arrangements, providers continue to express interest in projects that provide alternatives to the traditional hospital-to-hospital model. One such business opportunity to explore is telemedicine arrangements involving China elder care institutions (typically known in the U.S. as assisted living, skilled nursing, senior living, or long-term care facilities). In fact, China regulators have issued guidance and created pilot programs to develop and promote the use of telemedicine services at elder care institutions.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China (NHFPC), along with the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Civil Affairs, released a Notice on Pilot Programs for Using Telemedicine in Elder Care Institutions [关于组织开展面向养老机构的远程 医疗政策试点工作的通知]. The Notice uses telemedicine as the lynchpin in China's promotion of healthcare services for the elderly, including an accelerated pilot program for telemedicine services for Elder Care Institutions in the Beijing municipality and Hubei and Yunnan provinces. Foley's Telemedicine and China Practices have completed English-language translations of this Notice, available free for our readers.

Initiated in 2014, China's telemedicine elder-care pilot places emphasis on such aspects as telemedicine operational standards, accountability determination, incentive mechanisms, pricing standards, and costs. It also is designed to study and formulate policies, mechanisms, regulations and standards for telemedicine services in the elder care setting. The pilot will search for market-based service models to establish an overall environment designed to promote the use of telemedicine services in elder-care institutions. The goal is to improves the quality of health management services in elder-care institutions, explore cooperative arrangements between medical institutions and elder care institutions, and promote new technologies to deliver care.

Although there are certain exceptions to medical licensure in China, and U.S. providers should explore those options, the Notice does stress that medical institutions set up inside elder care institutions and hospitals must carry out diagnosis and treatment activities in strict accordance with the diagnosis and treatment items as approved by the "Practicing License for Medical Institutions" [《医疗机构执业许可证》].

Without doubt, telemedicine continues to attract attention within China and from international partners, placing China squarely on track to become one of the largest telemedicine markets in the world. U.S. healthcare businesses have ample opportunities, and policy programs such as this Notice expand China's view to elder care institutions, adding another patient-centered component to China's overall telemedicine efforts. Taking steps now to develop those international arrangements can position providers to best harness these growth opportunities.

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