Healthcare in China

Getting to see a doctor in China isn’t easy.

After I had a persistent cough, however, I had to see a physician.

Almost everyone goes to a hospital to see a doctor. That’s the way the system works.

What is interesting is how the healthcare system forces Chinese to do something they abhor: standing in lines in an orderly manner.

The Chinese are good at a lot of things but waiting in a line is not one of them. But everyone seems to accept the burden, with few people trying to skirt the queue.

After getting a number and an hour of waiting, I saw a young physician who analyzed my problems and ordered several tests, including blood work and an EKG.

Unfortunately, the hospital closes for more than two hours for lunch, and you have to wait until 2:30 p.m. to take the tests.

The EKG took a few minutes, and the results were returned immediately.

The blood tests were a different matter. They took about two hours to get the results.

After you get the results, you stand in line for another number to see another doctor.

The physician diagnosed my problem as an upper-respiratory infection and provided me with a prescription for a variety of antibiotics and cough medicine.

Unfortunately, you have to stand in another line to pay for the drugs. In fact, almost everyone has to pay up front for any procedures.

The total cost for the various procedures was about $70, which by U.S. standards is excellent. For many Chinese, however, insurance covers only about 70 percent of the total cost, and residents have to wait for reimbursement, which can be a significant hardship for many.

Although I got good care, I had two beefs. First, I couldn’t see a specific physician. Everyone sees who’s up next. Second, it took six hours from entering the hospital for me to get the medicine I needed. That’s about the same as in the United States, but I don’t have to spend all that time in the physician’s office waiting for the tests and the prescriptions in the United States.

Note: It would have been impossible to navigate the Chinese healthcare system without a translator. The same probably would be true if someone from China entered a hospital in the United States.

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