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How Baidu Maps Leads People to a Privately Owned Hospital

Weibo netizens have exposed how Baidu Maps, when looking for a city hospital in Shenzhen, instead provides the address of a private hospital run by the controversial Putian Medical Group. The trending issue has angered Chinese netizens. The close-knit and dubious connection between Baidu and Putian earlier made headlines in 2016.

Manya Koetse

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A doctor on Weibo has exposed how Baidu Maps, when looking for a city hospital in Shenzhen, instead provides the address of a private hospital run by the controversial Putian Medical Group. The trending issue has angered Chinese netizens. The close-knit and dubious connection between Baidu and Putian earlier made headlines in 2016.

In 2016, Chinese search engine Baidu triggered a wave of controversy after netizens exposed how the company offers advertised space for fraudulent doctors. Medical institutions reportedly paid Baidu large amounts of money to be prominently featured in their search results – often giving false hope to patients who hope to be cured.

Now, a year later, the search engine again angers Chinese netizens for linking to the address of a private clinic when people search for a Shenzhen city hospital. The issue was exposed by a surgeon working at the Shenzhen City Children’s Hospital on Weibo, attracting thousands of comments and shares within days.

Many netizens say that they are done with Baidu, as the company has ‘no integrity.’

 

The Wei Zexi Incident

 

The big 2016 Baidu controversy came to light in early May after the death of the cancer patient Wei Zexi (魏则西). Wei was a 21-year old student suffering a rare form of cancer. After several unsuccessful treatments, he turned to search engine Baidu.

Through one of Baidu’s paid results, Wei found a treatment at the Beijing Armed Police Corps No. 2 Hospital (武警二院) he thought could help him. With the help of friends and family, he came up with the 200,000 RMB (31,000US$) for the treatment, which later turned out to be ineffective and highly contested. Wei made headlines when he passed away shortly after.

Since he was an active user on a well-known message board where he shared his experiences, the topic of his death became a much-discussed on Chinese social media.

The death of the young Wei Zexi triggered controversy in 2016.

Further investigation exposed that the controversial treatment was done by the Putian Medical Group (莆田系医院), an organized group of medical entrepreneurs that dominates most of China’s private hospitals. It led to a stream of online responses from people who say they were also duped by the Putian Medical Group. Many recounted how their appointment at a Putian-related clinic had cost them a lot of money even when the public hospital doctor later diagnosed they had no health problems at all.

Amongst the many messages were also those of people who previously worked at Putian hospitals. Some told that the expert doctors that were advertised in reality did not even work at the clinics and that the staff was not qualified to do the abortion procedures they offered.

 

The Putian Medical Group

 

Putian’s monopoly in China’s private healthcare system goes back to the 1980s when the city of Putian grew into a town of ‘medical practitioners’ without official medical university degrees. The people of Putian discovered a medical goldmine by treating stigmatized conditions (such as STD’s) that were rarely treated at public hospitals.

Throughout the 1990s, the medical network of Putian was opening up clinics across China. These hospitals were amongst the first to advertise their treatments. They also signed contracts with public hospitals to run specific departments.

Baidu and Putian: money for misleading advertisement on the search engine.

Putian and Baidu have had a close-knit relationship for years. Baidu has made a fortune through Putian’s advertisements, and Putian has also further expanded its business by being featured on the search engine.

 

“Led to a privately owned hospital by Baidu”

 

Baidu has now become trending again for its dubious practices, as netizens have uncovered how Baidu Maps directs users to a Putian-owned clinic when searching for a nearby children’s hospital.

On July 10, the hashtag “Led to a privately-owned hospital by Baidu” (#被百度地图带到民营医院#) was in the top 10 of most-read topics on Sina Weibo.

Baidu Maps redirects patients to the wrong hospital in Shenzhen.

The issue came to light when a medical staff member of the Shenzhen City Children’s Hospital (深圳市儿童医) discovered that Baidu maps indicated their work unit had “moved.” When searching for the hospital, Baidu provided the address of the Putian Far East Women’s Hospital (远东妇儿医院). This leads many patients to visit the Putian hospital, thinking they are actually visiting the Shenzhen City Children’s Hospital.

The information was disclosed by a surgeon of the Shenzhen Hospital (@深圳胖胖熊) on July 7 on Weibo, where his post soon received thousands of shares.

The doctor writes:

“The Shenzhen Children’s Hospital address was originally 709 Yitian Road, Futian District. Unfortunately, in the Baidu map search results, the link underneath this name redirects to the address of the Putian Far East Women’s Hospital, and its name is underneath on the second place. This leads many parents who want to come to our hospital to go to the Putian Department. Is this negligence, or deliberate? What is the purpose? Could I say that this is shameless?”

On July 10, Baidu responded to the controversy through Weibo, calling the search results an “error” that was immediately being adjusted by the relevant departments.

 

“A dog can’t stop himself from eating shit”

 

But many people on Weibo do not believe that the misleading information is a simple error, with some saying that this is not the first time this has happened. Others also point out that this is “too much of a coincidence,” since the ‘error’ is linked to a Putian clinic.

Many people say that Baidu has already lost its integrity: “Bad habits are hard to change,” some people write (literally: “a dog can’t stop himself from eating shit” [“狗改不了吃屎”]).

“I don’t believe you anymore, your credibility records have become too low,” some commenters said.

The alleged unethical practices of Baidu lead many people to use the Alibaba-backed Gaode Maps (高德地图) instead of Baidu.

“I’d never expect for this to get so big,” the surgeon from Shenzhen City Children’s Hospital said on Weibo in response to all the attention his initial post has received: “I am just protecting the patients’ rights, and I feel responsible for protecting the reputation of my hospital.”

Another commenter, a medical professor from Chengdu, said on Weibo: “The internet has brought us much convenience, but we need to remain clear-headed and critical when using it – this holds especially true for Baidu search engine, Baike [Baidu online encyclopedia], and Baidu Maps.”

By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    paquirrin

    July 11, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    and now the government wants to block vpns so that we all need to use Baidu Maps and go to Putian clinics

    • Avatar

      bailsafe

      July 17, 2017 at 11:44 pm

      That’s ridiculous. Do you have some aversion to QQ Map or Amap (listed in the article)? Or hell, even Bing Maps?

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China Digital

WeChat’s New Emoji Are Here (Including a Watermelon-Eating and Doge One)

WeChat’s new emoji are based on popular memes.

Manya Koetse

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On January 14, Tencent’s Wechat introduced new emoji to its existing emoji set. The new emoji include, among others, a watermelon-eating emoji and a smiling Shiba Inu.

On Weibo, the new emoji have become a topic of discussion under the hashtags “WeChat’s New Emoji” (#微信上线新表情#), “WeChat’s Watermelon Eating Emoji” (#微信上线吃瓜表情#), and “WeChat’s Dog Emoji” (#微信上线狗头表情#).

Different from the Unicode emoji (see Emojipedia), WeChat and Weibo have their own sets of emoji, although there is overlap.

The reason why especially the watermelon-eating and dog emoji are being discussed on social media, is because these emoji are based on popular internet memes.

“Eating watermelon” (吃瓜 chī guā) is an online expression that comes from “watermelon-eating masses” (吃瓜群众 chī guā qúnzhòng), which describes a common mentality of Internet users who have no idea what is actually going on but are still commenting or following online stories for their enjoyment – perhaps comparable to the “popcorn memes” that are ubiquitous on Western social media platforms.

The smiling dog has been around since 2013 and is known as the doge meme, based on a photo of a Shiba inu. The meme was originally spread on social media platforms such as Reddit, but then also became hugely popular in China, where it became a symbol of sarcasm (also read this Abacus article on this topic).

Other new emoji are the “wow” emoji, and others to express “ok,” “add oil,” “emm,” “oh!”

There’s also a “shehui shehui” (社会社会, lit. “society society”) emoji, which also comes from online culture and is a way among friends to (self-mockingly) talk about being ‘gangsters,’ ‘brothers.’ or ‘scoundrels.’

As the new emoji are still in their testing phase, not all WeChat users can use the new emoji yet, so you might have to wait a bit before being able to try them out.

By Manya Koetse, with thanks to @caaatchina
Follow @whatsonweibo

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Backgrounder

‘Good Doctor’, Digital Hospitals: How Mobile Apps Are Alleviating China’s Healthcare Problems

With the rapid digitalization of China’s healthcare, Chinese patients now have more ways than one to receive medical assistance.

Manya Koetse

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China’s healthcare industry is facing some serious challenges. As Chinese society is rapidly digitalizing, mobile apps now provide innovative solutions to alleviate pressing problems in the country’s health services sector.

 
This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, originally published in German by Goethe Institut China on Goethe.de: “Good-Doctor Apps und Digitale Krankenhäuser.” 
 

Social Credit System, artificial intelligence, surveillance cameras; these are some of the hottest topics making headlines in mainstream Western media when discussing China-related developments recently.

With the rapid digitalization of Chinese society, these topics certainly have come to play a more important role in social media discussions within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But if there is one issue that seems to concern Chinese social media users the most, it is not facial recognition nor their ‘Sesame score’: it is the topic of healthcare.

In December of 2017, a photo showing a crying mother kneeling down beside a toddler on the sidewalk in front of a Shanghai hospital went viral overnight. The moment was captured on camera by a reporter who was visiting Shanghai’s Children’s Hospital.

The photo of Guo Yinzhen and her son that went viral in China (image via NetEase, source: https://3g.163.com).

The mother, Guo Yinzhen, is a single parent who had traveled from a remote village to seek medical help for her 3-old-son, who was suffering from congenital hydrocephalus or ‘water on the brain.’ Already having traveled to the city multiple times and spending all her money on medical bills, Guo could not afford the additional 100.000 yuan (€ 12.600) for medical procedures needed to save her son’s life.

Guo’s story struck a chord with Chinese netizens, who continue to share the heartbreaking photo on social media to this day. It has become emblematic of China’s healthcare problems.

 

Crowded Hospitals and ‘Healthcare Disturbance’

 

The key to an adequate healthcare system, no matter where in the world, is that there is a right balancing in the “iron triangle” of efficiency/cost containment, high quality care, and patient access.[1] China, however, struggles with all three sides of this triangle.

Guo’s case is an extreme example, but many people in China dealing with less serious health issues and needing basic medical services also struggle to afford and access the healthcare they need.

Over 95% of people in China have health insurance, but people from different regions do not enjoy the same benefits and their out-of-pocket expenses can vary greatly. Uncovered medical costs can sometimes be catastrophic and simply unaffordable for patients and their families.

As more money flows are going to healthcare facilities in China’s cities, there is also the issue of varying levels of providers’ medical education and the overall healthcare quality, with the substantial majority of modern hospitals still existing in urban areas.

Easy access to the right kind of healthcare can be especially problematic for China’s rural population, as people often need to travel long distances and have to go through the lengthy process of registering and waiting for their doctor’s appointment, which sometimes requires them to stay in the city overnight.

For all of these reasons, China’s bigger public hospitals can get super crowded, sometimes resembling shopping malls on an end-of-season sales day. On social media, both patients and medical workers often complain about the stress brought about by the huge crowds and the shortage of doctors in hospitals across the country.

Perhaps it is no wonder that China even has a word to describe outbursts of violence between patients and doctors: ‘Yī nào’ (医闹, literally: “healthcare disturbance”).

Weibo user ‘Sunscreen’ complains about the crowds at Huashan Hospital.

One major problem within China’s healthcare conundrum is the lack of local family or primary-care doctors, which often makes bigger hospitals the first stop to any kind of medical treatment for Chinese patients.

The reasons for this issue are manifold. There is a general lack of trust in private and smaller local healthcare clinics, for example, and patients often choose to go directly to a bigger hospital to avoid making extra costs.

This makes it extra difficult for many community health care centers – that are already struggling – to make enough money and to retain qualified staff. In a society that is rapidly aging, the challenges facing China’s healthcare industry are only becoming more pressing.

 

A Doctor Today, Just an App Away

 

As China’s online environment is thriving, new innovative online apps are popping up on a daily basis. Some of these apps, that have found their ways into China’s most popular app rankings, are offering solutions to some of the country’s most pressing healthcare problems.

One of these apps is Ping’an Good Doctor (平安好医生), which was developed by health insurance provider Ping’an in 2015 and calls itself China’s “one-stop healthcare ecosystem.”

“Ping’an Good Doctor” promotional image by Ping’an.

Employing some 1000 medical staff in its in-house team, contracting over 5,200 external doctors, and collaborating with 3000 hospitals and thousands of pharmacy outlets across the country, the app is somewhat of an “online hospital.”

Through the app, users can look through an online database of medical professionals, order medicine at nearby pharmacies, get 24/7 online medical consultancy, search for information about both Western and Chinese Traditional Medicine, etc., but they can also use Ping’an Good Doctor as a fitness app to track their own health.

Screenshot of Ping’an app screen, by author.

When looking for a specific doctor for a one-on-one consult, the app first lets users select an area of expertise (e.g. dermatology or gynecology), and then offers a list of different specialists in various price categories.

Doctors from well-known hospitals, for example, or those with excellent ratings, have a one-time consultation fee of 100 yuan (€ 12,60). Other doctors can be consulted starting from 30 yuan (€3,70). All costs can be paid efficiently via online payment apps.

Doctors to pick from within the app’s various price categories.

Ping’an Good Doctor uses an AI-driven system to ask patients various questions about their symptoms and to automatically create a user’s medical record to save time. Based on the AI-generated record and the conversation with the patients – files such as photos can also be uploaded to the app -, the doctors can prescribe medicine or refer the patient to a hospital for an offline appointment if needed.

Ping’an recently announced that its number of registered users exceeded 300 million users, with 62 million monthly active users. Because the app keeps building on its AI-driven system, Ping’an Good Doctor can be expected to only become a ‘smarter’ smart health app the more popular it gets.

Although Ping’an is now leading within China’s medical app category, there are many other apps providing similar services, such as Chunyu Yisheng (春雨医生), Haodafu Online (好大夫在线), or DingXiang Doctor (丁香医生).

The emergence of these apps is just one of the many ways in which China’s digital developments, online media, and tech giants are impacting the healthcare industry, profoundly changing how patients receive healthcare information and access medical services now and in the future.

List of recommended medical apps in the Tencent app store.

In a way, China’s medical consultation apps fill the void in offline primary care. Patients who would otherwise turn to hospital care as their first stop can now  access medical consultations any time, any day, at a relatively low cost. Those who suffer from relatively harmless conditions could be diagnosed by a medical specialist via the app and get the medicine they need within a matter of minutes. With the growing popularity of these kinds of apps, many patients no longer need to visit a hospital at all.

Are smart health apps such as Ping’an Good Doctor the solution to China’s healthcare problems? No, they’re not. Struggling mums like Guo Yinzhen will not find the help they need there. But they do contribute to a more efficient healthcare environment where crowd flows in hospitals can be reduced, and patients do not need to spend a lot of time and money to stand in hour-long queues to get five minutes of their doctor’s time.

Although smart health apps could not help Guo Yinzhen and her son, social media apps could. As soon as their story went viral in late 2017, Shanghai Children’s Welfare Foundation Xiaoxingxin offered to cover medical treatments for the little boy, with a notable pediatric neurosurgeon operating the child. According to the latest updates, the boy’s situation was “looking good.”

Hopefully, the same holds true for the challenging sides of China’s healthcare industry.

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

[1] Burns & Liu, 2017: 3-4.

References/Linked Sources

Burns, Lawton Robert, and Gordon G. Liu. 2017. “Introduction.” In China’s Healthcare Industry: A System Perspective, Lawton Robert Burns and Gordon G. Liu (eds), pp-1-116. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Economist, 2017. “China needs many more primary-care doctors.” The Economist, May 11 https://www.economist.com/china/2017/05/11/china-needs-many-more-primary-care-doctors [20.10.19].

Zhou, Viola. 2018. “Does China Have Universal Healthcare? A Long (And Better) Answer.” Inkstone, Oct 10 https://www.inkstonenews.com/health/china-translated-does-china-have-universal-health-care/article/2167579

This text was first published by Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.

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