Aliyun, An Alibaba Unit, Is Building China’s First “Cloud Hospital”

Alibaba’s power doesn’t just stem from being the largest player in the world’s fastest-growing e-commerce market. The company also sits on hoards of data, gathered from its shopping sites, as well as its financial and cloud computing businesses. Now Aliyun, Alibaba’s cloud computing subsidiary, has entered a deal to build what it calls the first “cloud hospital” in China.

Aliyun announced today that it has partnered with Xi’an International Medical Investment and DHC Software to create a hospital administration platform that they claim will improve the quality of medical care by making it easier for organizations to manage individual patient cases and analyze aggregated health data.

Xi’an International Medical Investment, which manages department stores and real estate as well as medical facilities, will be in charge of bringing the “cloud hospital” platform to market, while DHC Software will focus on its development. Aliyun, meanwhile, will contribute data analysis, cloud computing services, online-to-offline healthcare, and online payment support.

In a prepared statement, Xi’an International Medical Investment’s chairman Jin Shi said that the new platform will allow hospitals to share information more quickly and reduce the amount of time patients spend in waiting rooms by allowing them to register for appointments or make payments online. The software’s analytic tools may also eventually help doctors make accurate diagnoses by making it easier for them to access a patient’s medical records from other hospitals and also check family health information.

The “cloud hospital” Aliyun is building with its two partners is the latest step Alibaba has taken to apply its resources to healthcare. The company announced last year that it plans to use features and data borrowed from its other platforms, including Taobao, to help remake China’s health system.

More recently, Alibaba Group announced that it will transfer its online pharmacy business to Alibaba Health Information Technology, a separate company that is listed in Hong Kong. In a statement, Alibaba Group chief operating officer Jonathan Lu said “health care is especially important to Chinese consumers, and we expect that this integration (of Alibaba Health) will enable Alibaba Group to build a healthcare ecosystem that can utilize e-commerce, big data, and other technologies to improve the healthcare supply chain and ultimately provide users with a better healthcare experience.”

Alibaba Health, of which Alibaba Group currently holds a 38 percent stake in (the amount will increase to 53 percent after the online pharmacy deal closes later this year) already runs an appointment-booking site, as well as an app that lets users fill prescriptions at nearby pharmacies.

Like other pharmaceutical companies, however, Alibaba Health is limited by China’s current regulations, which do not allow the online sale of prescription drugs, though those laws are expected to be reversed this year.

The ambitious healthcare plans of Alibaba and its various subsidiaries are just one example of how deeply entrenched the company may become in the daily lives of Chinese people outside of their online shopping demands. Others include launched by Ant Financial, such as a new economic index that uses big data from Alipay and a credit-scoring service that looks at that track records of people who use Alibaba’s e-commerce sites.