Reforms aim to make more accessible and affordable healthcare in China

World Today

China’s healthcare industry is undergoing profound changes. Reforms are taking place across the supply chain, making healthcare more accessible and affordable, especially in rural communities.

CGTN’s Yao Chin reports from Sichuan Province.

“The doctor will see you now” – a promise that’s difficult to make in a country with around 1.4 billion potential patients.

However, it’s a promise that the Chinese government is working hard to keep – through ongoing healthcare reforms.

“The development of healthcare reform in China is affected by many aspects,” said Zhang Wei, a professor at Hua Xi Hospital in Chengdu – one of the leading hospitals in China.

“First, the government is changing its health management structure, and looking to provide a medical insurance coverage for all. Secondly, as we know, our healthcare service from the past was outdated. Now with the development of China’s medical sciences and technologies, the system is advancing. Especially as our usage of data develops, medical treatment will develop too.”

“Thirdly,” Zhang added, “there have been changes in how medical materials and equipment are supplied. This is especially so with the pricing, usage and circulation of drugs, which has been comprehensively reformed, offering a better health guarantee for the public.”

As many as 20,000 outpatients see a doctor at Hua Xi Hospital every day. And they do so by checking in with a special type of card.

As China has a limited medical referral system, an access card allows the patient to book an appointment with a specific doctor or service, and this is paid for in part by their healthcare insurance.

It also helps keep track of how patients use medical services and which drugs they use. In the future, this data will help optimize the quality of care patients receive and monitor the efficiency of the system, helping to keep costs down.

Making it more convenient to be seen by a doctor is a major part of the reforms. This is being achieved by organizing healthcare groups into a three-tier hierarchical structure. So instead of visiting a major, tertiary level hospital like Hua Xi, patients will initially be cared for by primary level hospitals.

“I was very anxious when I learnt there might be a problem with my baby,” explained Lin Liujun, a patient. “I came here at first to have the fetus examined, and the doctors told me the solution would be having an ultrasound scan and remote consultation performed by another doctor from a higher level hospital.”

That higher, secondary level hospital is the Maternal and Childcare Hospital in Ziyang City. It provides clinical support to around 110 clinics and community hospitals, and also serves as a link to Hua Xi, the tertiary level hospital in Chengdu.

China’s healthcare reforms are still in their infancy. Tertiary hospitals still control much of the resources, and it will take time to channel those to primary hospitals.

But it seems clear that the ongoing healthcare reforms are making a major contribution towards the goal of a healthy China.

Song Zhang on China’s healthcare reforms

For more on China’s healthcare reforms, CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke with Song Zhang, Washington Bureau Chief of the Shanghai Wen Hui Daily.