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Technology companies like Alibaba and Tencent have made healthcare a priority for years, and are using China as their laboratory. After testing online medical advice and drug tracking systems, they are now focused on a more advanced tool: artificial intelligence.
Their aggressive push underscores the differences between the healthcare systems in China and the United States.
Chinese hospitals are overburdened, with just 1.5 doctors for every 1,000 people — barely half the figure in the United States. Along with a rapidly aging population, China also has the largest number of obese children in the world, as well as more diabetes patients than anywhere else.
The companies’ technological push is encouraged by the government. Beijing has said it wants to be a leader in A.I. by 2030 and pledged to take on the United States in the field. While officials have emphasized the use of artificial intelligence in areas like defense and self-driving cars, they have also aggressively promoted its use in healthcare.
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