The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region will harness remote technology to deliver medical services to more Foreign Patients, a Senior Official with the Region’s Health Commission said.

Neighbouring countries have welcomed virtual health consultations offered by medical workers in Xinjiang, and the region will strive to improve telemedicine services to benefit a larger population of foreign patients, said Mutanlip Roz, Head of Xinjiang’s Health Commission.

Currently, the global telemedicine platform based in Urumqi, the regional capital, has enlisted 29 hospitals in Xinjiang and 24 major medical institutions in three foreign countries, according to the commission.

Medical resources in Xinjiang have already benefited a growing number of patients from neighbouring countries in recent years.

The Commission said nearly 21,200 foreign patients have received diagnoses and treatment at five large hospitals in Xinjiang since the region stepped up healthcare cooperation among Belt & Road countries in 2015.

At the Kezilesu Kirgiz autonomous prefecture in southwest Xinjiang that borders Kyrgyzstan, over 200 Kyrgyz people have crossed the border to take part in a previously domestic medical assistance program targeting congenital heart diseases, said Ding Qiang, president of the People’s Hospital in the prefecture.

“They have marvelled both at the economic prowess of China and the country’s advanced medical technologies,” he said.

“They are satisfied with the quality of care they have received in Xinjiang.”

Ding said the program, which began in 2016 as a heart surgery-oriented program, has recently expanded to provide operations for lung diseases and congenital chest defects.

Medical and health services in Xinjiang have undergone “transformative” changes in the past seven decades, with the average life expectancy climbing from less than 30 years to 72 years, according to Mutanlip Roz.

He added that the maternal mortality rate has fallen substantially from 1,500 per 100,000 in the early 1950s to less than 27 per 100,000 last year, and the infant mortality rate has dropped from 60 percent to 1.4 percent for the same period.

One driving force of progress is the nationwide medical assistance initiative that has seen over 500 medical professionals from large hospitals in more developed regions in China heading for eight hospitals in Xinjiang to provide long-term medical care and help train local doctors.

The initiative was rolled out in April 2016 by several government bodies including the National Health Commission, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

Due to the effort, the total number of hospital admissions has increased by over 12 percent and the number of surgeries has also gone up by nearly 20 percent, said Zhou Changqiang, an official with the National Health Commission.

“Next, we will focus on nurturing local medical professionals and boosting hospital management skills,” Zhou said, adding that telecommunication technologies will be deployed to broaden medical access in remote areas in Xinjiang.