China And The U.S. Face Similar Health Care Challenges

Dr. Su Xu, Director, Shanghai Minhang District Health Bureau

By Martha Bebinger

There are striking similarities in the vast and complex health care reform efforts that are underway in China and in the US. Leaders from both countries gathered at Harvard this week to compare notes and discuss collaboration.

The two countries are expanding insurance coverage and each is worried about rising costs. On costs, where patients go for care makes a big difference in China as it does in the US. A key challenge is how to persuade patients they don’t need to go to a hospital, especially high end hospitals, for routine care.

I had a glimpse of this problem in Shanghai early one morning last year. I had just arrived and was awake at dawn. From my hotel window, I could see a small crowd of people gathering outside the hospital across the street. There were lining up hours before the hospital opened, I learned later, to see a primary care doctor. Continue reading