Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Alibaba and Merck collaborate on patient-centric healthcare

Steve Rogerson
July 10, 2018

Chinese companies Merck and internet healthcare provider Alibaba Health aim to provide Chinese patients and their families with improved access to patient-centric healthcare services.
At the signing ceremony (pictured) in Shanghai, both companies announced the collaboration would focus on the areas of drug tracking and tracing, and internet health services, and to explore jointly areas such as pharmaceutical ecommerce and artificial intelligence.
"We are proud to partner with Alibaba Health, a distinguished world leader in digital healthcare," said Simon Sturge, chief operating officer of Merck's healthcare business. “Through Alibaba Health's digital platform, we can bring Merck's healthcare expertise to even more patients and their families all across China.”
The collaboration will start with Alibaba Health's drug tracking platform, combining Merck's expertise in diabetes, thyroid disorders and cardiovascular diseases with Alibaba Health's strengths in online healthcare to help ensure safety and security of drug use, while generating consistent value for patients through a series of add-on services. The two companies will also explore online healthcare service applications, direct-to-patient models as well as artificial intelligence enabled healthcare applications.
"I have high expectations for the partnership between Alibaba Health and Merck, which is a logical step in this era," said Leo Shen, CEO of Alibaba Health. "China is experiencing a profound internet transformation where the internet will penetrate every stage of industrial production, business operations and people's daily lives. Given the uniqueness and importance of the healthcare industry, the integration of internet and traditional medical and healthcare industries also needs to be driven by industry leaders. We hope the partnership between Alibaba Health and Merck will enrich each other's offerings and services, and will become a catalyst for the sustainable development of Merck."
The picture shows from left to right: Jim Jin, head of general medicine at Merck China Biopharma; Ying Tang, senior director of business operation for Merck China Healthcare; Rogier Janssens, managing director of Merck Biopharma China; Li Ma, senior VP of Alibaba Health; Steven Yu, trace code general manager; and Donna Zhou, marketing director.
As the healthcare flagship of Alibaba Group in implementing its double H health and happiness strategy, Alibaba Health aims to provide fair, affordable and accessible healthcare services, by leveraging on its specialised healthcare ecosystem and technologies.
"Our mission is to transform the lives of 40 million patients in China by 2025 and digitalisation will play a vital role in helping us to achieve that aim," said Janssens. "By combining Merck's expertise and rich knowledge in fields such as chronic disease, fertility and oncology, with Alibaba Health's cutting-edge technology and technical expertise, this agreement will effectively improve disease awareness and health management of patients in China via advanced internet approaches."
In recent years, the Chinese government has carried out a series of comprehensive policy measures to push forward medical reform. As a high-priority national development strategy, the Healthy China 2030 initiative is the first long-term strategic plan in the healthcare field to be established at the national level. The initiative revolves around the big-health concept and aims to encourage Chinese society to invest in healthcare.
To meet increasingly diversified healthcare needs, in April 2018 China's state council released a set of guidelines encouraging a deeper integration of the internet and healthcare. In line with these policies, Merck says it is embracing the digital era with an open mind, and is proactively expanding health access via internet-plus approaches.
China is an important strategic market for Merck. Throughout its 85-year history in China, Merck has been at the forefront of bringing benefits to patients and their families with its drugs and healthcare services. The company has almost 53,000 employees. In 2017, Merck generated sales of €15.3bn in 66 countries.
Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the USA and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, Millipore Sigma and EMD Performance Materials.