China will enhance its efforts in building medical consortium and arrange closer partnerships between top-tier hospitals and grassroots medical services, in order to provide health management and healthcare services for urban and rural residents alike on a more inclusive and coherent basis.
A set of new measures were approved during the State Council’s executive meeting on April 12, presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.
“The goal for medical consortiums is to make quality medical care more accessible to the wider public, especially in less-developed areas,” Premier Li said. “We’ve managed to set up nationwide medical insurance coverage and increased competence in grassroots medical institutions. The coverage is among the highest in the world. What we mostly need now are medical professionals.”
While people are demanding more and better healthcare with the rise of personal incomes, the country’s current allocation of medical resources is a tough balancing act.
The idea of building partnerships across medical institutions covering different levels comes in order to bridge the gap in resources. Figures from the National Health and Family Planning Commission show that by 2016, medical consortiums had been set up in 205 cities across China.
“Currently, high quality medical resources are mostly in big cities. These should further trickle down to lower tiers so that wider demand will be met,” Premier Li said. “We must encourage joint partnerships among city-level public hospitals and grassroots institutions, while imposing reimbursement of expenses.”
The meeting on April 12 came up with some new measures based on the current progress.
First, fragmentation between administrative regions, fiscal expenses, insurance payouts and human resources will be resolved, while more diversified forms of medical partnerships will be encouraged, with city- or county-level hospitals playing leading roles. The new guideline urges an internet-based medical information platform to enable better diagnoses and treatment for remote regions.
Second, further steps will be taken in allocating high-quality medical resources to wider regions. This will be done by dispatching teams of medical professionals to less developed areas with enhanced sharing and cross-operations of health and medical services.
Third, China will accelerate building a tiered medical system and introduce demand-oriented and contract-based family doctors. The government plans to cover all impoverished populations with the service this year, while inviting private healthcare institutions to join the effort.
The guideline also stresses better coordination and policies within newly established medical consortiums, so that there will be a more balanced allocation of medical resources across medical centers at different levels. The government encourages diverse ways of payments, and professional performance at grassroots levels will be included in the evaluation for medical practitioners, who can, in most cases, work at any organization within the partnership.
“The government needs to have well-designed, concrete guidelines in building medical care consortiums, taking local conditions in different regions into consideration,” the Premier stressed. “Local governments are encouraged to explore their own systematic innovation.”
He stressed that the reform fundamentally provides long-term benefits for people. He said that China has great demands in healthcare, and establishing medical consortiums will help drive the country’s economic and social development.