Most physicians in China work for state-run hospitals, where entry-level doctor wages are about $500 a month, on par with a taxi driver’s earnings. They routinely juggle caseloads of 50 to 60 patients a day, which leads to trouble: Chinese hospitals experienced an average of 27 assaults in 2012, as fed-up patients beat, stabbed, and even killed the doctors who failed to meet their expectations. In this climate, any tool that improves care—or even speeds up a doctor’s day—is a humane benefit to all. And that’s what Apricot Forest aims to do.
Apricot Forest offers a suite of three apps that target some of the core inefficiencies in China’s medical system. The primary app is MedClip, an all-in-one patient service system. Doctors can photograph, store, and organize patient records; dictate notes directly into a patient’s chart; send patients reminders and educational materials via China’s popular Weixin (aka WeChat) messaging system; and consult with other doctors on difficult cases. The second, e-Pocket, contains reference materials, such as drug formularies and specialized calculators. And the third, Medical Journals, helps doctors stay up-to-date on the latest research literature.
Twenty-five percent of China’s 2.5 million doctors now use at least one of the apps, as do about 2,000 new physicians every day. “I thought, What impact could I have if I could change the reality of Chinese people standing out in the cold all night in Beijing just to book an appointment?” says founder Dr. Yusheng Zhang, 32. And although doctors in China aren’t cash-rich, he has figured out how to make money in other ways. Pharmaceutical companies place ads inside his apps to reach doctors. Apricot Forest takes a slice of the sales of books and other publications made accessible through e-Pocket and Medical Journals. And the company intends to charge patients for follow-up phone calls with their physician via MedClip.
That’s a statue of fabled doctor Dong Feng, who inspired Apricot Forest’s name. (This statue is in front of Apricot Forest Chinese Medical Hospital in Anhui Province, China; it is unrelated to the Apricot Forest app company.) Dong Feng is believed to have lived about 1,800 years ago.
[Photo: Matjaž Tančič]