(Yicai Global) Nov. 23 --The number of private hospitals in China has doubled to a total of 16,900 in just six years. At the same time, efforts are being made to ease restrictions on private investment in healthcare. Despite this evidence of exponential growth, however, the private healthcare sector in China continues to generate a significantly lower revenue than its public counterpart. The issue, it seems, is that private healthcare in China tends to attract a smaller percentage of the population, appealing mainly to expats, medical tourists, and incredibly affluent members of the Chinese community.
Public opinion regarding private healthcare
One of the main reasons why China continues to choose public healthcare provisions over private is because private healthcare is expensive. It's also worth noting that most of the country's well respected and highly trained doctors prefer to work in public hospitals, as they offer greater benefits in terms of job security, research opportunities, and prestigious recognition.
Therefore, with highly trained medical staff preferring to work in the public healthcare system, and with patients following their favored specialists at every turn, opportunities to increase private healthcare revenue are significantly reduced. The healthcare market becomes even more competitive when taking into consideration the impact of international healthcare services and provisions, including the more modern concept of the travel nurse.
Healthcare statistics in China
It's thought that around 97% of China's population is covered by public health insurance schemes. With figures like this, it's easy to understand why such a small percentage of the nation's citizens go private, even when the number of private hospitals is on the rise. In fact, some public hospitals can receive up to 20,000 outpatients in a 24-hour period, while the average private hospital only ever manages to secure a 40% occupancy.
The country has tried to implement a number of schemes to help strengthen the private healthcare market in China, particularly in light of the ageing population and a rise in chronic diseases. One such scheme was to give doctors permission to attend patients across multiple hospital sites, both public and private, thus eliminating the problem of prestigious doctors being associated solely with public healthcare hospitals. As yet, however, these schemes haven't encouraged a clear shift in Chinese patient behavior or preference.
What does the future hold?
Despite the low revenue figures, the future for private healthcare in China looks anything but bleak. While it's true that changes need to be made if the country is to see the balance between private and public healthcare level out, the sheer fact that the number of private healthcare hospitals has doubled in recent years is proof that they are here to stay.
What's important is for the private sector to begin capitalizing on the positives that set it apart from the public sphere. These include modern resources, high-tech facilities, preventative care, and a focus on patient-centered experiences.
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