WeChat is Mobile App of Choice for Chinese Doctors

by Adele Li | Jan 2, 2018

A new study finds that the power of WeChat is so strong that Chinese doctors are now installing fewer medical apps.

That's according to new research from Kantar Health and China's major digital health professional platform DXY, which since 2012 have been collaborating on the country’s largest annual physician surveys. During this time, we’ve seen significant changes in physicians’ digital behaviors. Physicians are spending more time online and increasingly relying on Internet and digital technologies to work and improve themselves and their practices. This year’s report also features patients for the first time, and we're seeing that patients are also becoming more empowered by digital technologies.

This year’s survey collected answers from 10,325 doctors, of which 3,242 responded from PCs while an overwhelming 7,083 participated via mobile devices. Physician respondents represented a diverse group, covering 32 specialities and all city and town tiers, hospital levels and seniority levels. Our patient respondents were equally diverse, with more than 1,400 patients representing key therapeutic areas such as oncology, psychology, cardiovascular and respiratory.

Doctors satisfied with their digital time

Chinese doctors are quite immersed in the digital world, with the average doctor spending 29.2 hours online per week, of which 15.5 hours, or more than 50 percent of their total online time, is spent on medical related activities. Nearly half of physicians (48 percent) report that they are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their digital experiences.

Our analysis shows that chief doctors in big hospitals and in big cities spend more time online than their counterparts. Chief doctors spend 1.9 more hours online each week versus other physicians, while physicians from Level III hospitals and hospitals higher than the county level are also spending more time online than average.

WeChat dominance

As with the general Chinese population, doctors said that WeChat is their most frequently used mobile app. On average, Chinese physicians follow eight medical-related WeChat public accounts, and 48 percent of them are satisfied with what they read on WeChat. On the contrary, the average number of medical apps downloaded is decreasing. This may be the result of doctors realizing that WeChat's offering is good enough and they don’t need additional apps.

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Digital channels gaining impact

Our survey also asked doctors about their opinions on digital marketing's  impact on their work efficiency, decision process and prescribing the right medicines. Their answers showed that webcasting and webinars are the two most influential new digital marketing channels.

Not just e-learning

Our survey revealed that doctors go online for primarily seven professional purposes:


It's noteworthy that “earning income” cracked this list for the first time Earning income refers to the practice of health professionals opening accounts on professional healthcare websites, such as DXY.com and Chunyuyisheng.com, to answer patients’ questions for the sake of earning a consultancy fee.

Further, there are still unmet needs for health professionals on digital platforms, among which guideline and literature searches rank highest. Also, there's growth opportunities for healthcare service providers to offer personalized and value added content to doctors.

It's also worth pointing out that the proportion of doctors saying that digital platforms could do a better job in helping them to engage patients almost doubled - from 27 percent in 2016 to 51 percent in 2017. This point ranks as the second highest unmet need.

Finally, when asked about why they practice online, 68 percent said they do so to build their personal brand, increase exposure and improve career development, while 61 percent said they were in it to increase their income.

Looking to the future

Chinese healthcare professionals are increasingly rely on digital technologies for their work. They also resort to digital channels to build their personal brands and widen income sources. In the future, we could expect more doctors to join them to engage patients and offer more services online.

To Learn More

The Digital Life Physician & Patient 2017 syndicated reports are now available. For more information, please contact me at adele.li@kantarhealth.com

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