Chinese internet-based technology and cultural enterprise Tencent is using AI innovations in medical imaging and data mining to provide better, faster, more comprehensive diagnoses. In this extract from the GLOBAL INNOVATION INDEX 2019, Tencent’s Founder and Chief Executive Ma Huateng looks at the revolutionary impact of AI and big data in China’s healthcare service.

In recent years, with a flourishing economy and the continuous progress of medical reform, China’s healthcare system has experienced rapid expansion and significant service improvements.

Today, there are over one million medical institutions in China. Medical insurance covers more than 95% of the Chinese population. Average life expectancy has reached 76.4 years, which is higher than in some high-income countries.

However, population aging has put enormous pressure on China’s healthcare system. To relieve this, we consider how technology could improve healthcare efficiency, and whether solutions could be integrated into the healthcare system to help patients and reduce the financial and psychological burden on their families.

The next generation of information technology (IT) represented by artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics could offer new tools to address China’s healthcare challenges.

Medical AI has the potential to complement doctor resources and enable broader access to high-quality medical services. This is of great significance for China, where the current supply of healthcare services falls short of the growing demand from an aging population of 1.4 billion.

Where AI can make a difference

Medical imaging has become the leading and most popular field for AI applications in China’s healthcare sector.

Tencent AI Medical Imaging, developed in 2017, is a system used for screening several diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, lung cancer, and esophageal cancer.

The system is undergoing clinical validation in more than 100 major hospitals in China. It has already assisted doctors in reading over 100 million medical images and served nearly one million patients.

With the advancement of image recognition technologies, diagnostic precision has reached new levels. Data from Tencent shows that recognition accuracy reaches 90% for esophageal cancer, 97% for diabetic retinopathy, and 97.2% for colorectal cancer.

In general, Chinese medical institutions and businesses are taking a proactive attitude towards AI. Nearly 80% of hospitals and medical companies are either planning to, or have already carried out, medical AI applications, and more than 75% of hospitals believe that such applications will become popular in the future.

Top five countries / regions for AI patent applications

With AI technologies flourishing in China, healthcare AI is drawing the attention of investors, bringing more capital to the field and accelerating technological innovation even further.


About the contributor

The GLOBAL INNOVATION INDEX 2019 is the result of a collaboration between Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as co-publishers, and their Knowledge Partners, Confederation of Indian Industry, Dassault Systèmes, SEBRAE, Brazilian Micro and Small Industry Support Services, and Brazilian Confederation of Industry.

Originally published on the Global Innovation Index

Featured image via Unsplash.