Healthcare reform roadmap

Updated: 2012-03-26 15:32

(China Daily)

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Healthcare reform is meant to provide residents with an affordable, quality medical service, which explains why any central government policy on healthcare catches the attention of the public.

The latest State Council document on healthcare reform until the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15) proposes an explicit roadmap.

What is particularly noteworthy is that healthcare administrative departments at all levels will be required to tighten control over the rise in medical costs, including the cost of hospitalization and the proportion of drug costs within the total bill for treatment.

It clearly states that the government will try to pay for the equipment procured by hospitals and that any medical examinations using equipment purchased with public funds can only be charged in relation to equipments' depreciation. The results of medical examinations at a hospital will also be valid at other hospitals so that patients do not have to receive the same examination again when they go to another hospital for treatment.

The document says that any economic losses hospitals suffer in this way will be made up for in two ways, raising the prices of technology intensive medical provision and input from both the central and local governments.

County-level hospital development is another point that receives attention. More efforts and incentives are provided to cultivate quality doctors, and the procurement of advanced equipment and the increase in the number of beds in such hospitals will make it possible for 99 percent of local patients to receive quality healthcare service in such hospitals.

That is important because if the target can be realized, large hospitals in big cities will not be as overstretched as they are now because of the many patients that come for treatment from all over the country.

But devising such a roadmap is one thing, realizing it is another.

There will be a lot of obstacles to overcome. For example, it will not be easy for administrative healthcare departments to effectively oversee the business of hospitals. And neither will it be easy to establish a specialized organization composed of experts in between hospitals and administrative departments to specifically supervise the performance of hospitals.

Yet a roadmap is better than nothing and attention to the details could make a difference to healthcare reform.