CUP joins Alipay and Tencent to compete for medical care payments in China

Written by Denis Suslov || March 06 2015

Recently CUP announced a cooperation with some of Shanghai’s well-known hospitals to launch an app, where users will be able to perform many of administrative hospital visit procedures on the mobile. This is the first step of CUP’s Modern Hospital plan, aimed to connect major hospitals to its payment solution.

With the new app a user bundles his UnionPay Card to the app and then can receive queue number, diagnosis and medical test appointments and arrange medicine pick up. Once the treatment is over, the hospital will push all bills as well as medical prescription to the app.

According to CUP’s management, the payments provider also has plans for insurance and online drug purchase integration. An attractive feature is the automatic separation between fees to be billed to social insurance accounts and fees to be paid by patients by cash. The former would be deducted from linked social security cards and the latter from UnionPay cards. ‘Family Account’ will allow its owners to add elderly family members and children to the account for more streamlined family treatment.

The new CUP product follows Alipay’s ‘Hospital of the Future’ introduced in May 2014, which had been used by three-hundred thousand users since the launch. Tencent has also added hospital payments to its omnipotent WeChat platform. Both companies have made investments in medicine and health websites before.

However, there is an important difference between the two tech giant’s services and the new one by CUP. The latter has no access to patient health information and only processes payment data. Though transfer of patient’s personal information raises the privacy issues, at the same time it enables Alipay and Tencent to provide higher value-added services and higher customer engagement. The reason why the Shanghai hospital chose to proceed with UnionPay and not competition is that valuable information stays with the hospital and can later be used for in-house solutions.

Major Chinese payment players are interested in medical care as they see the shortcomings in the industry. The internal processes are not exactly super patient-friendly. Visit to a doctor in an overcrowded hospital can be stressful, aggravated by convoluted organization of logistics. Many hospitals are state-owned with the demand for their services higher than supply and therefore are not motivated to improve customer service. Seems like conditions are ripe for tech giants with their brilliant computer system architects and interface designers to revolutionize yet another industry.

 Unionpay Hospital Payment China