China will encourage more qualified physicians to run their own clinics, either working full time or part time, according to a guideline jointly issued by the country's five authorities.
The guideline published on the official website of the National Health Commission said 10 cities including Beijing, Shenyang, Shanghai and Nanjing will pilot a program for private medical practices, which will later expand throughout the country based on initial pilot experiences.
The government is stepping up efforts to improve medical services as medical resources in China are unevenly distributed, with patients crowding major public hospitals in big cities.
Currently, China has nearly 200,000 registered clinics in service, with each province boasting an average number of over 7,000. The average amount of medical practitioners in those institutions is 2.6, in which the average number of doctors is 1.4. A shortage of medical workers, lower-quality healthcare services and a lack of industry regulation represent the current problems that need improvement.
The guideline proposes streamlining the setup process for private clinics by lifting the restrictions on such clinics set by the country's medical institution planning system. Those who apply to run their own clinics can practice medicine as long as they are on record with local health administrations, eliminating the previous approval procedure which usually took a long time.
Doctors who have practiced medicine for at least five years and obtained intermediate-level or above qualifications are encouraged to run clinics for general or specialty medical practices. Group medical practices, which refers to a group in which doctors partner together to offer medical services to patients and share operational costs, are also encouraged. The guideline also supports private clinics to be incorporated into the medical treatment partnership system so medical resources could be widely shared.
To better improve the medical service quality of private clinics, the guideline states that the health administrations in pilot cities can include the clinics in the construction of the medical treatment partnership system if such clinics agree, and patients can freely transfer from one medical treatment service organization to another within the region.
The guideline requires provincial-level health authorities that administrate the pilot cities to create specific plans and start the pilot program by the end of September.
To supervise operations of the private clinics, the guideline encourages the pilot cities to evaluate the credit record of the private operators for credit ratings, and to establish a systematic and long-term enforcement mechanism.
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