The benefits and dangers of China’s online medical appointments

Hospitals around China are fast adapting to the recently introduced online registration platforms. The process is expected to gradually reform the country’s traditional registration systems which has been criticized for being time-consuming as well as inflexible in emergency situations.

Image shows people queuing up to buy tickets at a hospital in China.

Most hospitals in Beijing and other metropolises now encourage patients to make online bookings in order to save time and stress.

Most importantly, the issue of scalpers around hospitals has been a big problem since the government introduced online booking of medical appointments.

A spokesman for China’s medical authority said in a statement that “the body will investigate and punish the scalping of hospital bookings”.

Top medical authority says appointment scalpers will be punished

The information was made public after a video clip went viral on China’s social network Weibo, showing a young girl weeping uncontrollably amid claims that hospital staff connived with ticket hustlers to defraud her.

The girl said she had been waiting in the hospital for an outpatient appointment for two days, and still could not get a ticket.

She complained that an appointment slip in Guang’anmen Hospital that originally cost 300 yuan ($45) was being offered by scalpers for more than 4,500 yuan and she had to buy one. After the “black market purchase” was made, she realized it was scam and later called in the police to help recover her lost money.

In China, paying for a medical appointment in advance is common in many hospitals, and most patients get there early in the morning to guarantee themselves a spot.

Image shows people buying hospital tickets.

Many dealers wait outside the registry at 3 am or earlier to get an appointment, and will later sell their slip number to legitimate patients at a much higher price.

The country’s top public hospitals are always full of patients, and getting an appointment with a department director is extremely hard, making the illegal trade of appointment slips a popular business.

On Friday, a total of 32 dealers were caught by the police in Beijing’s Haidian district.

“Currently, there are no laws or regulations on such a trade, and most dealers are held in custody for a few days. The lack of punishment provides a loophole,” said Zheng Xueqian, a law committee member of the Chinese Hospital Association.


Plans are underway to update apps for the online registration in order to make them easily accessible and more user-friendly, so that senior citizens can use them more conveniently.

Image shows patients getting treatments in waiting halls due to lack of rooms and beds.

Online bookings in Beijing commenced in 2015, and many hospitals within the capital city have made more appointments available via online channels, including hospital apps and social media.

All appointments can be made with the patient’s name and identity number to prevent secondhand sales.