China Insights

Chinese doctors increasingly prefer WeChat over apps

Adele Li

Senior Commercial Director, Health

Health 04.12.2017 / 14:42

Female doctor on X-Ray and mobile phone

The power of WeChat is so strong that doctors install fewer medical apps, because they find subscribing to medical accounts is enough.

Since 2012, Kantar Health has been collaborating with China’s major digital health professional platform DXY to launch the country’s largest annual physician surveys. We’ve seen significant changes of physicians’ digital behaviours. We’ve seen they are spending more time online, as well as increasingly relying on Internet and digital technologies to work and improve themselves. As patients are also empowered by digital technologies, this year’s report for the first time includes patients in our report. (Read "Meet the digitally savvy Chinese patients")

Sample size

This year’s survey has collected answers from 10,325 doctors, among which 3,242 from PCs while 7,083 from mobile devices. They came from 32 specialities, all city/town tiers, hospital levels and seniority levels. More than 1,400 patients responded to this survey, with patients of oncology, psychology, cardiovascular and respiratory departments, etc.


Doctors satisfied with their digital time

Chinese doctors are quite immersed in digital word, with average doctor spending 29.2 hours online per week, among which 15.5 hours, or more than 50% of their total online time, are medical related activities. Nearly half of them (48%) said they are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their digital experiences.


Our analysis showed that chief doctors in big hospitals and in big cities spend more time online than other counterparts. Chief doctor spend 1.9 more hours than average each week, while those from Level III hospitals and hospitals higher than county level are also spending more time online than average.

EN Chief Doctors Spend More Time Full

EN Big Hospitals Spend More Time Full

WeChat dominance

Same as every ordinary Chinese, doctors said that WeChat is their most frequently used mobile app. On average, they follow eight medical-related WeChat public accounts, and 48% of them are satisfied with what they read on WeChat. On the contrary, the average number of medicine apps downloaded is decreasing. It might mean that doctors have noticed that what WeChat could offer is good enough and they don’t really need so many apps.

EN Eight Wechat Accounts Full

Digital channels gaining impact

Our survey also asked doctors about their feeling about digital marketing channels’ impact on their work efficiency and prescription decision/use the right drug. The answers showed that webcasting and webinar are the two most influential new digital marketing channels.

Not just e-learning

Our survey has found that doctors going online mostly for seven professional purposes:

1. Knowledge;

2. Search;

3. Tools;

4. Peer exchange;

5. Continuing Medical Education;

6. Caring;

7. Earning income.

Among them, “earning income” for the first time became a major reason for doctors to go online. “Earning income” refers to the practice of health professionals opening accounts at professional healthcare websites, such as and, to answer patients’ questions to earn consultancy fee.

EN Seven Online Activities Full 

There are still unmet needs for health professionals on digital platforms, among which guideline/literature search ranks the highest. It seems there is still a growth opportunity for healthcare service providers to offer personalized and valuable contents to doctors.

EN Unmet Needs Full

It is also worth noticing that the proportion of doctors feeling that digital platforms could do better to help them engage patients almost doubled from 27% in 2016 to 51% in 2017. This is also the second highest unmet need.

When asked about why they practice online, 68% said they did so to build personal brand, increase exposure and improve career development, while 61% said they were in it to increase income legitimately.

EN Reasons For Online Practicing Full 


Apparently, Chinese healthcare professionals are increasingly rely on digital technologies for their work. They also resort to digital channels to build their personal brands and widen income source. In the future, we could expect more doctors to join them to engage patients and offer more services online.

Source: Kantar Health

Editor's notes

* In collaboration with DXY for the 5th wave of the study, Digital Life Physician & Patient 2017 is the largest physician and patient online surveys in China that purely focuses on picturing real life in the digital environment. In this latest wave, we updated our methodology, report content and analysis to better serve the needs of our clients. With more comprehensive content and useful insight, Digital Life Physician & Patient 2017 is an even more valuable tool that will enable our clients to better understand the digital landscape in China's medical environment.

The Digital Life Physician & Patient 2017 syndicated reports are now available through subscription. For more information, or to know more information, data and analysis of health industry, please contact us ;

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