Yusheng Zhang, MPH/MBA '09 and B. Camilla Chung, MPH '13
Two Bloomberg School alumni are developing mobile health solutions for Chinese physicians and patients.
In Chinese culture, red symbolizes luck and happiness, but in China's government-run hospitals and clinics, mountains of red tape choke efficiency and multiply costs. With chronic diseases on the rise in an aging population, the country’s total health spending is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020, the government’s target date for implementing universal health coverage. China is emerging as the world’s largest mobile phone market (currently 900 million and growing fast), and mobile health (mHealth) technologies are poised to revolutionize Chinese medical practice and foster a safer, more efficient health care system.
Yusheng Zhang, MPH/MBA '09 and B. Camilla Chung, MPH '13 both possess extraordinary expertise in clinical care, health systems research, and cutting-edge technology, which they are using to reshape the way Chinese physicians and patients interact within the world’s largest health system. Yusheng credits his experience as a Sommer Scholar at the Bloomberg School for "strengthening my belief that being an entrepreneur was the right call." While working in Washington D.C. as a clinical research manager for WellPoint Inc., Yusheng attended his first mHealth conference and subsequently decided to pursue mHealth in China's budding health technology market. He co-founded Apricot Forest in 2011 to give Chinese physicians "their own ward in the cloud" by developing mobile apps to provide point-of-care decision support.
In China, doctors are also known as "persons of the Apricot Forest," a reference to the legendary physician Dong Feng, who told his cured poor patients to plant apricot trees instead of paying him. The trees grew into a great forest as a testament to his healing powers. In terms of rapid growth, Yusheng’s company has lived up to its name: in June 2013, Apricot Forest’s Medical Journals mobile app won first place at the Fortune Global Forum's Meet the Future panel, which was attended by the CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies and China's top corporate leaders. The app, which has been downloaded over 150,000 times, is designed to help harried Chinese doctors stay current in their field and enable them to customize their information stream of topics, journals, and experts.
Yusheng and his team of 20 developers and physicians just released MedChart, an “Evernote for physicians” that allows users to use their phone to record notes and pictures during patient exams, then upload each case into the cloud. The app can also share data with other verified users to provide crowd-sourced expertise. More than 10 percent of Chinese physicians use Apricot Forest’s mobile apps, with 30,000 new users each month.
Working in Beijing with Yusheng was the perfect MPH field experience for B. Camilla Chung, who has been studying clinical workflow processes since she began designing hospital information technology systems in 2005. Camilla was struck by Beijing's "fast-paced and hard-working people navigating through a mix of old and new worlds, both rich with culture and distinctive qualities.” In a country where doctors outnumber nurses, physicians often see over 40 patients per shift and perform most clinical tasks, including checking blood pressure, drawing blood, and administering medications. Camilla interviewed several physicians, studied their workflows, and mapped out their experience in order to identify areas where technology could be productively applied.
Today, Chinese couples still offer vivid red packages of “Double Happiness” cigarettes as wedding party favors, but the color red and the apricot—symbolizing fire, blooming, and expansive energy—could well come to signify China’s new era of mHealth.