There is a new research project at the MIPLM: “Digital transformation in the regulated healthcare industry: How to exclusify the digital consumer health care journey?” Ping An Healthcare’s “Good Doctor” now has over 300 million users and is the world’s leading online healthcare eco-system platform. The disruptive digital business model of Ping An Good Doctor (PAGD) is very interesting – it is the Freemium model, the marketplace model, the platform model and the experience model all rolled into one platform eco-system driver to craft their unique value creation. PADG was founded in 2014. Since then, Ping An Group has filed more than 14,000 patent applications which are published. In 2019, it is one of the top 100 PCT applicants worldwide, alongside telecommunication technology leaders like Huawei, Samsung, and Qualcomm.

It is of interest to examine if and how elements of a digital healthcare consumer journey can be made exclusive with patents to protect specific aspects of the journey, such as consumer safety and medical diagnostics methodology. In this study, the digital health care customer journey is examined for Ping An Good ADoctor (PAGD) by applying theoretical frameworks and then abstract insights and examples of patents which protect specific parts of their consumer journey via portfolio analysis of Ping An Group’s patents. Current trends, emerging trends as well as a patent opportunity gap have been identified. By managing the consumer journey as a product, PAGD succeeds in making a part of the journey tangible, legally enforceable and profitable for the company. Apart from enjoying first mover’s advantage in a Covid-19 context, the black ocean platform eco-system strategy of PAGD supported with a solid patent portfolio rendered it almost impossible for competition to compete.

The customer journey of a patient-doctor consultation is one as old as the hills. On the one hand, the actual journey is probably non-technical, trivial, and hence non-patentable. Therefore, to file for a patent protection, novelty and inventive step(s) must be identified, perhaps leveraging on the “digital” aspects of their use of “computer programs”. On the other hand, business methods and computer programs as such are not patentable according to the EPO/

Ping An Good Doctor’s first One-minute Clinic and automatic dispensary in Wuzhen, outside of Shanghai. Credit: Ping An Good Doctor

EPC. In contrast, in the US courts and USPTO, the approach is much more liberal.

In the research project answers for the Chinese unicorn Ping An are given by examining the customer journey they created for their customers and analyzing into how they protect elements of this journey with patents. From the legal point of view, it is interesting to examine how PAGD (Ping an Good Doctor) threads together patent protection of their digital inventions and customer journey in a way which inherently holds a technical character with an inventive technical solution; and not just merely a non-technical method which produces a technical effect.

From the management point of view, insights can be derived in the examination of how PAGD uses patents to protect its unique consumer journey to create exclusivity and safeguard safety/security in the journey for their customers.

This research project is conducted by MIPLM graduate Dr. Jamie Soon Jia Mei and supervised by Prof. Dr. Alexander Wurzer and Dr. Thibaud Lelong both CEIPI.

Dr. Jamie Soon-Kesteloot née Soon Jia Mei (PhD, MIPLM) is trained in chemistry, nanotechnology, and microelectronics. She works as technical innovation manager (R&D) at Essilor Group, France, the world’s leading ophthalmic optics company. Essilor designs, manufactures, and markets a wide range of lenses to improve and protect eyesight. She holds an Ph.D. in Chemistry from National University of Singapore and studied there chemistry. Jamie is an EU ambassador for MIT Innovators under 35. The Innovators Under 35 is an annual listicle published by MIT Technology Review magazine, naming the world’s top 35 innovators under the age of 35. The innovators are awarded for accomplishments that are poised to have a dramatic impact on the world.

Here is the presentation about the “Digital transformation in the regulated health care industry: How to exclusify the digital consumer healthcare journey?”