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E-Commerce: The New Frontier and a New Normal for Health in China


Vice president at WPP Health Practice China, Xiaoyan Wang, on changes in the whole health ecosystem

E-Commerce: The New Frontier and a New Normal for Health in China
- Above: The Coronavirus crisis has made digital engagement the new normal for the pharmaceutical industry in China / credit: Denys Novozhai, Unsplash

The Coronavirus crisis has made digital engagement the new normal for the pharmaceutical industry in China – and the shift is likely to be permanent. Driven, at first, by necessity – and maintained once its potential to transform services became clear – e-commerce has become the new frontier for healthcare in China.

The advance has been rapid. Whether it’s online appointments distributed through Alibaba, online consultant services via JingDong ( or self-management tools via WeChat, technology is at the heart of a health revolution as providers innovate to meet stakeholders’ 24/7 needs.

E-commerce healthcare offers such as JingDong health have moved extremely fast - extending their business out from on-line consultation to building an 'internet hospital network' designed to align perfectly with the more traditional offline hospital. Everyone expected e-commerce to reign over the retail sector, but before this pandemic, we could not have imagined the impact it would have on our sector – moving way beyond e-pharmacy - changing the whole health ecosystem.

Pharma is playing a crucial role in this journey of change, helping to manage end-to-end delivery across platforms, and supporting both HCPs and patients as health management models are reimagined. Suddenly, an industry that’s traditionally been cautious around its use of digital has grabbed hold of technology and started to respond like established online platforms. It’s brilliant to see.

The shift in healthcare delivery, which happened almost overnight as lockdown landed, also forced pharma companies to transition to ‘digital’ operating models. Now, just a few months later, clients are not looking back.

At the start of the outbreak, many of our clients pivoted immediately (and more strategically) to online brand building, conscious that, irrespective of disease area, patients and physicians needed good information and they needed it fast (and at scale). Whilst Covid-19 naturally hogged the limelight, patients with all other conditions still needed supporting – and with routine hospital services closed off due to coronavirus, pharma recognised that digital was the best way of meeting their needs. Post-lockdown, that engagement has continued, with clients redefining their brand building approaches and developing digital/social strategies to help support patients at home. I think that this shift in disease management – i.e. focusing more on healthcare at home rather than simply in hospitals – is likely to have a huge influence on pharma’s marketing plans as we move beyond the pandemic.

As our healthcare system in China battles to provide access to healthcare to the world’s biggest population, digital is the key to our future success. Our (China’s) digital mindset existed long before Covid-19. But the Coronavirus pandemic has transported us to another level. This pandemic has most definitely created a new normal – one that promises to transform health and propel it into a new era. 

- Xiaoyan Wang, vice president, WPP Health Practice China

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VMLY&Rx, Tue, 28 Jul 2020 09:50:39 GMT