“Internet-plus” connects better healthcare resources to remote areas

Wang Yulian, a doctor of a health center in Datang village, Yangshan County, south China's Guangdong Province, receives a patient. (Photo by Zhu Jian)

Eighty-year-old Zhu Qundi was sitting in her yard in Yangshan County, Qingyuan, south China’s Guangdong Province, enjoying the warmth of the spring sunshine.

However, fears were still lingering on the mind of Zhu’s son Zeng Si every time he recalled what happened in January last year.

“It was cold that day, and my mother felt dizzy after getting up. She almost fainted,” Zeng said. Fortunately, doctor Huang Suying of the village arrived in time, who immediately tested blood pressure for the octogenarian and then consulted a “smart doctor” on a mobile application. After that, Huang contacted an expert with Guangdong Second Provincial General Hospital and medicines were soon prescribed.

“Over the past year, my mother’s blood pressure has been well controlled, and she’s in pretty good health conditions,” Zeng told the People’s Daily.

Yangshan County, located in the eastern part of Guangdong, is surrounded by mountains. Many townships and villages there had to suffer underdeveloped healthcare due to the geographical position. To see a doctor, local residents had to travel a long distance.

In recent years, thanks to the development of “internet plus”-driven health services, fellow villagers in the county are connected to high-quality medical resources.

“Internet plus” is also boosting the confidence of local village doctors.

“This is an AI device package distributed by provincial authorities. It has a whole bunch of equipment, such as an ECG monitor and a glucometer,” said Huang, pointing to a bag on his hand. “It’s way more advanced than the traditional echometers, sphygmomanometers and thermometers,” he added.

Under the deployment of Guangdong’s health commission, such packages were distributed to 2,277 impoverished villages in September 2019, with each village doctor holding one.

“All the devices in the package are connected to the internet, so the data and images can be uploaded to county- and provincial-level hospitals,” Huang told the People’s Daily.

Now, with the county being connected to better roads, and covered by phone and network services, health centers in its townships are getting busier, as telemedicine platforms are not only hospitals for residents living in remote areas, but also “classrooms” of further study for primary-level doctors.

Libu is a mountainous township in Yangshan County, where it’s easy for riders to get hurt because of the winding mountain roads. However, the township hospital could only treat single fracture of lower limbs.

Fortunately, a branch of Yangshan County’s telemedicine center was established in the township. It significantly benefited Yuan Xiaoming, an orthopedist of the township hospital. Now, weekly case discussion, on-demand online consultation and frequent telelearning have become a routine for him and his colleagues.

Now Yuan and his colleagues are more proficient. They are able to perform not only dearticulation and extra-articular surgeries, but also skin flap transplantation.

In recent three years, the county-level hospital of Yangshan has launched about 80 new businesses and technologies. Today, it is able to perform many kinds of surgeries that it dared not to handle in the past, and some of its techniques are even in a leading position in the province.

In the next five years, the county will invest more in the facilities and human resources of township- and village-level hospitals, and work together with Guangdong province to offer better medical resources for the people at their doorsteps, said Deng Fei, Party head of the county.

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