Background: Difficult access to healthcare in Mainland China has been documented for many years and places a severe burden on the population. The Chinese Government has taken many initiatives to tackle difficult access such as implementing universal health insurance, and introducing hospital networks for easier referrals to elite hospitals. mHealth services are another modality to improve healthcare access in China. Recently, an overview of mHealth apps in China reported that the most common service among apps targeted access to medical care. The purpose of this study is to examine how mHealth apps and services improve access to cardiovascular care in Mainland China.
Methods: mHealth services with the keywords “appointment making” (in Chinese) were sampled from the major app stores in Mainland China in October 2017. This study included mHealth services provided by hospitals that included cardiovascular care in Mainland China. For each mHealth service we also examined the hospital's location, hospital ranking (as issued by the Chinese Ministry of Health), ability to select specific physicians, online payment availability, and presence of patient identity verification. Standard descriptive statistics was used.
Results: There were 437 hospitals throughout Mainland China offering appointment making through mHealth services, of which 309 hospitals' mHealth service were in operation. 229 hospitals were considered level 3A (highest rating), accounting for nearly 20% of all 3A hospitals in the country. The majority of the hospitals were located in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing. We also found that in additional to appointment making, nearly all the apps provided online payments, the ability to select specific doctors, and patient identity verification.
Conclusions: The universality and abundance of mHealth apps and services can provide the Chinese population a more convenient way to access cardiovascular care. Further review of usage rates, especially in rural areas and among the elderly is important to understand the impact of mHealth on access to medical care