Alipay, the electronic payment service from Alibaba, is trying to go beyond payments and to deliver value in other areas crucial to the business. The latest example of this comes from a group of hospitals in China, where Alipay is not only paying patient bills but also delivering test results and scheduling doctor examinations.
Alipay's argument is that this could slash medical waiting times at these over-crowded facilities. More efficient payments are great, but by focusing on something even more near-and-dear to executives' hearts, it can more easily get deep within a system. At that stage, selling payment services is far easier.
This all flows from a program that Alipay announced in May called "Hospital of the Future." Five hospitals have embraced the program: Hangzhou-based Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital; Guangzhou Women and Children's Hospital; First Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University; Second Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University; and Nanchang 334 Hospital, Alipay said.
"Currently, it's very troublesome to visit the hospital. Patients have to come to the hospital at 6a.m. or 7a.m. to get a queue number," Liu Limin, deputy director of Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital, said, according to a ZDNet report. "With this Alipay tie-up, hospital visits will no longer be troublesome because visitors can make appointments at home using their phones."
The plans are certainly not limited to appointments and testing. ZDNet reported that "there are plans to extend the Alipay service to integrate patients' medical records with hospital databases, to facilitate real-time consultation with doctors over the phone and to add more sophisticated links from various hospital databases to insurance service providers. Those database links would also facilitate billing, which gets back into Alipay's core area.