Alibaba prepared for an online pharmacy boom.

Alibaba prepared for an online pharmacy boom.

The e-commerce giant said it would combine its Tmall pharmacy business with Alibaba Health Information Technology, in a $2.5 billion deal that would raise its stake in the Hong Kong-listed subsidiary from 38% to 56%. The Chinese government is expected to approve online prescription drug sales later this year.

Alibaba Health is already testing a smartphone app that allows customers to quickly fill prescriptions. Using their smartphone cameras, customers can upload photos of prescriptions and check availability and prices at nearby pharmacies.

Alibaba is also eyeing other healthcare opportunities. The group’s financial payment affiliate Alipay seeks to considerably shorten appointment time by letting users book appointments at selected hospitals through a smartphone app. Patients could also make payments and receive diagnostic results using their smartphones.

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