Updated: Apr 11, 2022
Tencent is a Chinese multinational technology conglomerate holding company. Founded in 1998, its subsidiaries globally market various Internet-related services and products, including in entertainment, artificial intelligence, and other technology.
However, Tencent is mostly known as the world's largest video game vendor (Fortnite) and provider of WeChat, China's "super app" with a wide range of functions ranging from messaging, social media, online services and mobile payments.
Tencent firmly believes in “serving patients, helping doctors and assisting hospitals”, and sees itself as a “digital assistant” in providing a digital “toolkit” for healthcare partners. Nowadays, the Internet has penetrated all aspects of life. By applying mobile Internet, AI, big data and other technologies in the healthcare industry, it can better cope with the challenges arising out of the uneven allocation of resources and improve the efficiency and quality of medical services.
In the past five years, Tencent has been exploring ways to improve the quality and efficiency of the healthcare industry through digital technology. In line with its Industrial Internet strategy, Tencent’s exploration in the healthcare industry focuses on three areas, namely, Tencent Medipedia, Smart Hospital, Medical AI and drug development.
1. HEALTH INFORMATION
In the era of mobile Internet, more people look for healthcare information online. However, the quality and accuracy of such information are not easy to identify, as erroneous or deficient information is not uncommon on internet. Tencent Medipedia is the specially designed solution to this issue.
Tencent Medipedia is designed as an authoritative, professional and practical platform sharing common healthcare information. Users are provided with knowledge from the prevention, diagnosis, treatment of disease to rehabilitation. Through text, photo, video, interactive and AI assistant, and 3D visualization, Tencent Medipedia brings high-quality original healthcare content from around the globe and localizes it to best suit the Chinese audience. It is a medical information platform with systematic and in-depth content that translates obscure medical knowledge into more reader-friendly information for the general public.
To ensure the creditability of the platform, Tencent Medipedia collaborated with WebMD, a reputable international healthcare information platform, to obtain access to over 60,000 Chinese research papers on medical and healthcare. Tencent Medipedia also partnered with the Chinese Medical Doctor Association (CMDA) and over 1,000 specialists from hundreds of renowned hospitals nationwide to present healthcare content covering over 8,000 common diseases (including detailed information on 50 diseases).
Tencent also entered into a strategic collaboration agreement with Merck, a German multinational pharmaceutical, chemical and life sciences company. With the agreement, Merck and Tencent will create intelligent digital healthcare services, thereby increasing public knowledge of diseases and improving patient's understanding of disease symptoms and effective treatment options. The collaboration will also provide patients with more convenient and smarter medical services, helping to better manage chronic diseases.
The focus areas will include all treatment areas of Merck’s Healthcare business in China: in allergies, Merck and Tencent will explore digital services that increase the awareness of allergy symptoms and encourage adherence to treatment plans; in the area of infertility, the collaboration will work to enhance awareness of disease and treatment options and help patients who are in need of fertility resources to shorten the process of medical treatment. The two companies will also focus on diabetes, thyroid disorders and cardiovascular diseases, as well as oncology such as metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC).
2. TENCENT SMART HOSPITAL
Tencent’s Smart Hospital solution connects all stakeholders with technology. It does not only help medical institutions to enhance their operational efficiency but also spares patients from long waiting times for medical consultation. It has effectively connected medical services, healthcare services, and personal health management and created a new healthcare ecosystem.
DIGITAL HEALTH CARD
The Digital Healthcare Card is equivalent to a “health ID card” in China, which records a person’s medical records from different hospitals in different regions. It is a key link between the public and medical institutions, amongst such institutions, as well as the institutions and social public services departments. Tencent actively promotes the issuance and use of Digital Healthcare Cards to enable the public to experience the best online and offline patient care.
Through WeChat, Tencent can reach out to the insured totalling over 500 million. Nearly 10,000 medical institutions support medical insurance payments by WeChat. Hence, users can pay for medical consultation and medication via WeChat.
Tencent Health, a service platform on WeChat, is Tencent's latest contribution to healthcare. Starting from March 2019, residents in Shenzhen - an emerging city in China, can experience Tencent Health service via WeChat to obtain timely online medical consultation, arrange appointments, access healthcare information, and other useful services. Tencent Health will be rolled out to other cities gradually.
Already by 2019, over 38,000 medical institutions in China have set up official accounts or Mini Programs at Tencent’s WeChat platform. 60% of the hospitals provide various smart healthcare services to patients through WeChat, and about 110 million WeChat users subscribe to these healthcare services.
3. AI LABS
Tencent has three major AI labs which champion breakthrough medical AI research in different application scenarios, they are Tencent Medical AI Lab, Tencent YouTu Lab and Tencent AI Lab.
TENCENT MEDICAL AI LAB
Tencent Medical AI Lab has embarked on research on a new digital biomarker that could be applied to the interpretation or prediction of disease or health outcomes. For patients with Parkinson's disease, for instance, their motion information and audio signals are captured by video and mobile sensors and mobile phones respectively. AI will then analyse such information. The information coupled with professional opinions will produce a comprehensive evaluation of the patients, thus enables accurate and objective treatment.
In the field of Medical AI, Tencent hopes to assist doctors in diagnosis but never replace the human touch. As the healthcare industry advances, there are many areas where efficiency could be improved with technology. Tencent firmly believes that helping doctors, it is helping the patients. It will continue to cooperate with medical institutions to further explore and contribute AI technology solutions to address the problems caused by insufficient medical resources.
Tencent Youtu has all along been committed to medical AI. Not long ago, the team just set two records in the global medical imaging competition LiTS, winning two world's first places in liver segmentation and liver tumor segmentation. By deepening its technological R&D, Tencent Youtu has launched its first medical imaging product "Tencent Miying". Currently, this system has supported cancer screening for ophthalmic diseases, oesophagal cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, cooperating with more than 100 top 3A hospitals in China. It not only reduces the workload of doctors, but also plays an important role in improving diagnostic accuracy and efficiency.
TENCENT AI LAB
Tencent AI Lab concentrates on the entire process of medical services. It offers products from disease diagnosis to treatment, including guided consultation, AI pre-diagnosis, AI-assisted diagnosis, and guided medication. According to Yao Jianhua, the Chief Scientist of Tencent AI Lab Medical Center, Tencent AI Lab will further probe into pathology from three angles: AI-based pathological diagnosis models, AI-based pathological prognosis prediction models, and quantitative analytics in pathological omics.
4. DRUG DEVELOPMENT
Chinese tech giant Tencent has launched iDrug in June 2020. It's an AI-driven software platform, to aid new medicine development
iDrug was designed to speed up the entire process of pre-clinical drug discovery with its machine learning capabilities. In fact, the iDrug platform aims to cover the entire process of preclinical drug development, including protein structure prediction, virtual screening, molecular design/ optimization, ADMET property prediction (soon to be open source), and synthetic route planning. Protein structure prediction, as the basis of drug design, is essential for understanding the interactions between molecules in an organism.
Previously, pharmaceutical companies and research institutions have conducted experimental determination of protein structure through traditional methods, which are often difficult, lengthy, and costly. Whereas, after predicting protein structure and function through deep learning models, computers can faster from hundreds of millions of massive small molecules. Quickly and specifically find potential seedling compounds to effectively improve R&D efficiency. On the iDrug platform, Tencent AI Lab has applied a new algorithm for predicting protein structure.
More than 10 projects—including potential cures for COVID-19 from several pharmaceutical companies—are now running on iDrug: https://drug.ai.tencent.com/introduction_en/
Tencent was one of the first to invest in AI pharmaceutical company XtalPi. This start-up, already valued at 2 billion dollars, uses computational physics, quantum chemistry, and cloud computing to provide smart drug development for pharmaceutical companies. The company’s ID4 (Intelligent Digital Drug Discovery and Development) platform can accurately predict the important characteristics for new drugs by measuring various chemical indicators, enhancing drug research and development efficiency. This platform has enabled hundreds of pharmaceutical companies to accelerate their research pipelines, leading to dozens of new discoveries
5. DIGITAL TWINS
Digital twins facilitate direct involvement in understanding, analyzing and digitizing our lives to an individual level. It's about simultaneously using the data to compare and create a digital twin that improves in quality of predications, when more data is being added to it. Unlike most Healthtech that focus on cutting edge prognosis, treatment, infrastructure or application in a hospital facility, this approach directly affects the daily life of users, probably in the biggest way possible
iCarbonX has raised over $600 million in investment, with Tencent as the lead investor from the beginning.
iCarbonX is a digital data platform for personal healthcare with a user base that has grown to cover over a million users (and all their data contributes to the vast knowledge repository which is still growing). The company provides continuous health characterization to its users on their integrated, digitized, AI-driven platform that allows them to be aware of their health conditions and consistently make better, more informed choices. The nature of the platform also makes these options more accurate, as the data-driven platform learns more as more data is added to the growing repository.
The platform combines the health data of the consumer and global research data with AI tech to create a digital health ecosystem where each user can be informed of their health. It acts as a map of personal health, informing people of their relative position, risks and opportunities and allowing them to take a better path in terms of healthy choices. It also allows medical professionals easy access and guidance to understand patients with their health history, status and vulnerabilities mapped out digitally.
info via: Tencent
Healthusiasm take >> This article was written I was triggered by a poll on Linkedin. Dr. Bertalan Mesko by the Medical Futurist asked what big tech company might become big in healthcare. The mentioned companies were Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM and Nvida. In an amazingly powerful article (as per usual), he unveiled the results and most important efforts of these companies. In Bertalan's opinion, Microsoft might have the biggest chance to make it big. Most people on Linkedin were convinced that none of those was going to make it.
I had to disagree, largely with both. First of all, I am convinced that all of these companies will become big in healthcare, albeit in their respective claimed space. Google in data. Apple in hardware. Amazon in delivery. Microsoft with broadly used applications. Nvidia in the computing power. But I also might have to disagree with The Medical futurist in that way that I don't believe Microsoft might be the biggest or most important of them all (if that is possible to predict anyway). We have omitted some very valuable companies. In the West, I would gently add Philips to that list (maybe not that big - but sure to make a big splash). But we are mainly missing the Big Tech companies from the East. Alibaba and definitely Baidu being two interesting ones on the horizon. But in my humble opinion, I strongly believe that Tencent is here to make the biggest splash of them all. Besides the factual arguments mentioned in the article above, I believe there are 3 elements that are making the biggest difference:
WeChat: if an entire society is functioning on your platform, you are bound to make a big splash. Whether it is information, payment, services or medical health records. Everything is about to be managed on that platform.
Investments: Having such a grip on society, combined with some very targetted and smart health investment (both money and time), puts them in the pole position to make a huge splash.
Future-proof: Looking 10+ years ahead, healthcare experiences will be provided within a metaverse (Fortnite like) and our digital twins (iCarbonX) will be used to predict and manage our health. If there is one company in the world that is already the strongest player in this field: it is Tencent.