NETV pitched a three-tiered service offering that couples health information services in medical facilities with individual member offerings that are proposed as a method for individual to educate, plan and keep track of medical information. On one end of the spectrum, the company is working to get IPTV-connected screens in health care facilities around China (the plan is to have 200 screens in 90 hospitals by the end of 2006). These screens provide information to patients at the hospital who need more details about their health care options and provide revenue to NETV through advertising. Additional fees would be generated through the sale of terminals, although I can’t imagine too many medical facilities purchasing a screen and then allowing the seller to generate advertising revenue post purchase. On the member side of the equation, NETV is proposing a fee-based member service for managing health care, identifying preferred providers and negotiating discounts on rates, which sounds a little like a HMO in the U.S. although the company doesn’t draw the comparison in its proposal.
NETV appears to be in a more challenging position than any of the other companies presenting at DEMO China for a number of reasons. The idea of providing screens capable of delivering individualized medical information to people in a hospital is valid, but a goal of approximately 2 screens per hospital is far too low to make any significant impact in providing patient education. At best that represents a limited beta test, which would be better concentrated in one hospital to get adequate coverage.
Unless the medical information is generalized to the point of mass consumable for everyone sitting in a waiting room, the line to get more information at these kiosk stations will be longer than the waiting list to see doctors because the daily patient load at any hospital is far too high for 2 screens to be highly effective. From an advertising perspective, if too few people are seeing the advertisements, the paying advertisers will take their dollars elsewhere to get a better reach.
On the member side, if NETV is in a position to negotiate better rates for patients, they may have a market. From what I understand of Chinese health insurance, people who want adequate coverage are currently looking outside the country. Even providing a means of convenient scheduling may assist improving patient experience dramatically, although it’s hard to say whether anyone would pay for that convenience (they certainly wouldn’t in the U.S.) If they are simply providing information to patients, thousands of resources internationally provide an outstanding breadth of information in most of the known languages of the world at little or no cost to the reader. The U.S. has yet to see any healthcare sites with significant numbers of paying subscribers and already saw a number of online healthcare failures during the 2001 dotcom fallout.
NETV cites HealthMedia as a direct competitor in the LCD healthcare information business. NETV claims an advantage in providing data via real time playback and interactive broadcasting, compared to HealthMedia’s use of DVD information playback. While this could be a potential advantage, without a massive penetration of screens in each hospital to support all potential patients, I can’t see the company effectively meeting patient needs on an individual basis. More likely, HealthMedia is providing generalized information that doesn’t require interactivity and reaches a broad audience simultaneously. Seeing more than 50 people swarmed around a television in a Tianjin alley makes me think there’s currently a large market for mass health education initiatives.
Maybe there’s more to what’s planned than meets the eye. Under the hood at NETV, they maintain a portal for streaming movies, television and adult content in something that appears to be linked to founder Haiyan Peng’s streaming company Blue Sword.