Kantar Health Blog

Doctors in China embrace digital technology

by Graeme Jacombs | Nov 16, 2015
Graeme Jacombs

When Kantar Health China ran the first Digital Life Physician survey three years ago, we were excited by the results showing that physicians in China are much more digitally savvy than expected – almost all of them have internet access, and they’re just as knowledgeable about digital resources as their Western counterparts and in some respects more active in their usage.

Digital uptake is increasing rapidly among doctors in China, and mobile is playing an increasingly central role. Last year’s survey found that 83 percent of Chinese doctors are accessing the web via their mobile devices, more than twice the number who had mobile access two years before. It seems that doctors’ “digital lives” have now become “mobile lives.”

And the evolution continues. The results from our 2015 survey are in, showing that innovative digital channels are now just as important to physicians in China as traditional channels when accessing medical information. In fact, doctors now access half of their information via digital channels. WeChat is the dominant mobile messaging platform in China. This extends to physicians as well as consumers, with almost nine out of 10 Chinese doctors reporting that they use the app. WeChat allows companies to create public accounts that users can follow, and the large majority of physicians in China who use WeChat subscribe to at least one medical public account. And these doctors aren’t just subscribing to one medical account; 20 percent are subscribing to more than 11 medical accounts.

Not only are they subscribing to public accounts, they’re actually engaged with the content the accounts share. Nearly two-thirds of subscribers to public medical accounts say they read most or every push message sent by the public accounts, with greatest interest in news about treatment guidelines, the pharma industry and online curricula.

While many Chinese physicians are very open to digital content, attitudes toward digital activities from pharma companies are more complicated and polarized. Half of doctors say that they are willing to participate in online activities developed by pharmaceutical companies and believe the information provided by pharmaceutical companies from online platforms. However, a similar number “don’t want to have any connection with pharmaceutical companies on online platforms” and “suspect the neutrality and credibility of the information published by pharmaceutical companies online.”

Clearly, a “one size fits all” approach will not work, and careful segmentation and targeting are needed.

So what are doctors looking for, and which companies are doing the best job? Stay tuned for my next post…

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