If you live outside of China, it can be easy to forget that Alibaba’s business aspirations go far beyond e-commerce and into many aspects of daily life. This week, the company took another step toward building its health business by making an investment worth RMB 225 million (about $35 million) in a medical imaging company called Wanliyun Medical Information Technology.
Once the investment closes, Alibaba Health Information Technology (Alibaba’s medical unit) will own 25 percent of Wanliyun, according to a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange. In the disclosure, Alibaba Health said its mission is “to build an online community where it will connect participants in China’s healthcare market” and that its investment in Wanliyun “will enable it to participate in the new and promising area of the use of cloud computing platforms to provide remote medical imaging services.”
Wanliyun’s majority shareholder is China Resources Wandong Medical Equipment, which was founded in 1955 and is China’s first medical imaging company, according to a Sina Tech report. Alibaba’s investment in Wanliyun is a continuation of its ongoing efforts to improve on current healthcare technology in China by using cloud computing.
In April 2015 Aliyun (Alibaba’s cloud computing business) announced it is building a new healthcare administration platform that will allow hospitals to share information more quickly and analyze aggregated patient data. Around the same time, Alibaba Health will take over Alibaba’s online pharmacy business, but the transfer has been delayed due to regulatory issues.
Alibaba has an opportunity to make an impact in China’s fragmented healthcare industry because the government is pushing reforms that includes improving IT systems. The company’s ambitious plans, however, face opposition from some pharmaceutical companies, which say Alibaba’s medicine tracking platforms will compromise national data and create unfair competition.