Reform to offer more accessible healthcare

08:40, December 20, 2010      

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Shanghai will introduce new approaches to its medical reform to better balance its resource allocation and extend basic healthcare to more people.

The new plan, released by the municipal health bureau last week, said the city will lower the bar for access based on patients' household registrations, so more residents can receive basic healthcare.

Shanghai will establish and renovate more top-level hospitals in its outskirts to expand high-quality medical resources.

The city currently has nearly 3,000 hospitals and clinics, or about one in three square kilometers on average. However, most large public hospitals are located in downtown areas, leading to medical resources' uneven distribution.

It is expected that nine top-level hospitals will open in Shanghai's suburbs in 2012, the bureau said.

The bureau hopes to establish a citywide electronic health record platform by 2012, which can contain more than 10 million people's health information.

The bureau said patients' health records and test results will be updated in real time. The information will be shared among hospitals and medical insurance departments. And the system detects redundant medical treatments.

The system has already been installed in the city's 23 hospitals on a trial basis. Media reported it has reduced redundant examinations by about 75 percent.

Vice-Mayor Shen Xiao-ming said the electronic health records platform's ability to detect redundant exams will "play a critical role in reducing medical expenses".

The new medical reform plan showed Shanghai is also considering a family doctor system.

While such a system is new to other parts of China, Shanghai has more than 10,000 family doctors.

Under the new plan, every family will receive care from a family doctor, who will go beyond home visits. Doctors will also organize remote expert consultations for residents and provide fetal heart monitoring for pregnant women, the bureau said.

The bureau said it will soon release a detailed plan to receive public feedback.

An ongoing online survey of 1,030 involved netizens by xinmin.cn showed on Sunday that more than 70 percent of respondents praised the progressive phase-out of household restrictions as essential healthcare's basis.

"It will reduce the inequality and discrimination that's caused by basing access on household registrations," a Shanghai resident, surnamed Fang, said.

"It seems that under the new plan, everyone in the city will have equal access to basic healthcare. This will have a remarkable practical impact on the city's numerous migrant workers and their children."

Another resident, surnamed Zhang, also supported the reform. He believed it will strengthen community health centers and gradually improve service quality.

"It helps resolve the difficulties of seeking medical services from large hospitals," he said.

By Wang Hongyi, China Daily

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