Grassroots doctors going online to learn from the best

Chinese internet companies are using abundant online academic resources, livestreaming platforms and virtual reality technology to make lifelong medical learning more accessible for grassroots doctors and health workers across the country.

"In the past, the hospital you worked at would define what kind of doctor you are," said Wu Haishan, head orthopedist at Shanghai Changzheng Hospital.

Because of the differences between hospitals, be it the equipment or the variety of cases doctors are exposed to, grassroots doctors - those who work in community, town or village-level clinics - usually have less access to ongoing professional education.

"All doctors receive similar foundational education in universities. The reason their professional skills differ so much later on is their ongoing exposure to further professional education," he said. "But the internet has rocked the boat for traditional education models, and made it possible for grassroots doctors to receive the same training as doctors at big-name hospitals, as online resources and livestreaming give them the same exposure to complicated clinical cases."

Allinmd, a young internet company devoted to professional orthopedics training, was founded to meet the rising demand for online medical lifelong learning. According to Liu Zhengrong, CEO of the company, the platform has connected over 140,000 orthopedists in China, among the estimated total of 160,000.

With the increasingly easy access to online academic resources, documents relating to a wide range of clinical cases and even livestreaming of operations, orthopedics specialists in hospitals and clinics of all levels will be able to learn from the best.

Yang Ruirong, founder of Marathon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm specializing in healthcare projects, said lifelong medical education suffers from imbalanced resource distribution, but online and mobile education programs can help with the situation.

After graduation, the majority of doctors attend training courses every year, either for self-development, out of personal interest or due to their institutions' requirements, according to research from Medicool, an online community for medical workers.

However, a lack of time, quality content or convenient options are all obstacles for doctors. Thus, mobile and internet-based medical education has become a popular option among the community, as 70 percent of the 1,302 medical workers Medicool interviewed thought training via mobile apps was the most desirable method. Half of the interviewees also voted in favor of online tutorials via computers.