On September 26, the WeChat mini-program of ByteDance’s healthcare business unit Xiaohe stopped updating, and it will officially go offline from October 31. In July, the Chinese tech giant invested billions of dollars in a high-end private hospital, Amcare Healthcare, which will launch a mini-program for its services. According to Haike News, ByteDance’s healthcare business is stepping into an accelerated period of resource integration, and a huge healthcare ecosystem is slowly forming.
ByteDance has never disclosed its strategy or progress regarding its healthcare business. Through various moves including investment, mergers and acquisitions, and self-research projects, the focus of ByteDance is now more on medical services in the healthcare field, while also covering online and offline channels.
ByteDance’s healthcare ecosystem has covered many areas, including online medical science popularization, digital consultations, doctor appointments, offline clinics and hospital diagnosis and treatment, as well as drug research and development, drug wholesale and retail, and more. The array is expanding.
In May 2020, Zhu Wenjia, who was then the CEO of ByteDance’s news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, led the acquisition of China’s largest professional medical popular science knowledge platform Baikemy, at a price lower than the bid of Baidu. With this as a starting point, the medical layout of ByteDance began to take shape.
In August of 2020, Tencent News reported that Wu Haifeng, the former vice president of Baidu, and Sun Wenyu, the former executive director of Baidu, had joined ByteDance. Two months later, an internet medical startup named 1024Jiankang founded by the two people became wholly-owned by ByteDance. At the end of the year, ByteDance established a special department responsible for its healthcare business, led by Wu Haifeng, who reported to Zhang Yiming, the founder and then CEO of ByteDance. This department is known as “Xiaohe Health.”
On the whole, China’s healthcare industry still has much room for development. According to data from Chinese research institute iiMedia Research, the overall revenue of China’s healthcare industry maintained steady growth from 2014 to 2021, with revenue in 2021 reaching 8 trillion yuan ($1.11 trillion), an increase of 8.1%, and it is expected to reach 9 trillion yuan in 2024. The development of the Chinese healthcare industry is on par with the global level, although there is still a large gap between China and more developed countries in the proportion of medical and health expenditure compared to GDP.
ByteDance’s healthcare business was once compared to leading industry players like JD.com and Alibaba. With its web traffic and user base accumulated by Toutiao and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, alongside ByteDance’s powerful algorithmic technology, it is not impossible for the company’s healthcare business to overtake other leading platforms.
Meanwhile, ByteDance’s revenue growth rate has been slowing down in recent years, and its major business is no longer booming. It is now urgent for the company to explore alternative growth points. However, facing competition from Alibaba, JD.com and Baidu in the healthcare industry, as well as China’s increasingly stringent industry regulation, ByteDance’s future healthcare development path is unclear.