GP system planned after student death uproar

Updated: 2016-05-13 07:35

By Shan Juan(China Daily)

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GP system planned after student death uproar

The Baidu logo outside the company's headquarters in Beijing. Greg Baker / Agence France Presse

The nation's health authorities will establish a family doctor system to guarantee early response and accurate information for patients. Shan Juan reports.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission, China's top health authority, is formulating plans to establish a family doctor system to ensure a well-organized and orderly healthcare environment.

The move comes after the news that a 21-year-old computer science student with cancer died after undergoing an experimental cancer therapy that was heavily promoted by Baidu, China's leading internet search engine.

Wei Zexi, from Shaanxi province, who died on April 12, had synovial sarcoma, a rare cancer of the soft tissue. He paid 200,000 yuan ($31,000) for four courses of immunotherapy at the biomedical center of the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps, a military hospital that had outsourced the work to private service providers.

Although there is no suggestion that Wei's death was caused or accelerated by the treatment, it was later revealed to be an experimental process that had not be cleared for clinical use.

In a message posted online shortly before his death, Wei said he chose the hospital after seeing its name displayed prominently on Baidu when he was searching for information about his illness.

The case, which made headlines around the world, exposed Baidu's reliance on paid listings, which rank search results according to how much the advertisers have paid, and the low levels of supervision in some military hospitals.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, the online watchdog, held its own investigation and released a statement demanding that Baidu, which holds about 70 percent of China's search-engine market, restructure its listing services.

It said Baidu relied excessively on profits from paid search listings and failed to clearly identify commercial promotions, which compromised the objectivity and impartiality of its search results.

On April 5, Li Bin, the commission's director visited a primary healthcare center in Beijing as part of preparations for her top priority for the next five years - establishing a system under which every family will be registered with a general practitioner.

"It will help to establish a well-organized and orderly healthcare system to better ensure public health," Li said, during the visit.

Liu Yuanli, dean of the School of Public Health at Peking Union Medical College, said Li's visit signaled a new approach to healthcare: "A family doctor system would help prevent tragedies like Wei's in the future."

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