China State Council briefing outlines multilevel system for medical treatment

Chinese health officials shed some additional light on the country's plans to reform its healthcare system by saying they plan to implement a "multilevel" system for medical treatment, according to a press briefing given by State Council officials.

The plan for the new system is designed to relieve some of the stress that larger hospitals face from "too many patients seeking treatment in big hospitals," officials said at the briefing.

Mao Qun'an, spokesman for the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said the new system would provide a tiered level where patients first go to "nearby community-level hospitals" which can then transfer patients to a higher-level hospital "depending on the severity of the situation."

"On the other hand, higher-level comprehensive hospitals can transfer patients who are recovering from surgery to lower-level hospitals," Mao told the briefing, adding that patients with acute illnesses such as high blood pressure would be sent to "comprehensive hospitals" but would also have available long-term care at community hospitals.

Mao said the other systems like insurance coverage and treatment prices need to be adjusted and pilot programs need to be in place to familiarize people with the new plan.

China's State Council Oct. 30 briefing

Mao cited the Beijing Chaoyang Hospital and Liulitun Health Service Centre as examples of the new system where they have established a "medical care union" to coordinate their services.

Mao said the system at these institutions has nearly eliminated waiting times with patients making appointments in advance and doctors with advanced training making monthly community tours.

"Through the coordination between the union of Chaoyang Hospital and Liulitun Health Service Centre and medical insurance institution, no extra fees are charged when transferring among different medical care institutions, which is supported by the medical insurance policy," Mao said at the briefing.

"We will use the economic lever to guide patients to receive treatment at the community level healthcare institutions. The patients can reasonably choose where to receive treatment and enjoy the convenience and benefits brought about by the multi-level medical treatment system."

The multilevel system is at odds with the "superhospitals" trend in China in which facilities feel the need to expand their services in the face of reforms that could cut their revenues, especially the recently enacted cut of the 15% markup in drug prices that hospitals were once allowed to charge.

- here's the State Council briefing