Visit to a China Hospital

In china business by Michael Michelini15 Comments

Spent a few hours today with my trustee assistant Melissa Zhu at the local Nanshan Public Hospital, here in Shenzhen, China. Besides a blood test / drug test for my passport z-visa, this was my first time at a public hospital for a regular checkup. So let me note my experience, it wasn’t as scary as I could have imagined (hate hospitals regardless, but when you cannot communicate, its even scarier!) I will compare to what I know of in a US hospital.

I wanted to go during lunch today, but Melissa told me the hospital is closed for lunch – from 12 noon to 2pm! She didn’t think this was strange, but I know in US the hospital is always open. I didn’t setup an appointment, didn’t seem normal or necessary. about a 10 minute taxi from the office, we arrived maybe 2:15pm.

First, I needed to buy a health record book (picture below), that cos 7.5 rmb (approx $1.20usd), this book could be used at any hospital in Shenzhen city, but you needed to buy it to see a doctor and it would be your record of health in the city. After waiting in line and paying there, we went to a certain floor for the department of doctors we wanted to see.
china hospital id

15 people ahead of us! But it was only maybe 20 minutes in the waiting room. A bit of a fight when I went into the room, as a woman claimed she was ahead of me in line and waited longer. But we got in after a few minutes. Did some checkups, HAD TO PAY at a cashier in order to see my results! Paid cash, waited in line. Then got the results (healthy, phew!), and then had some medicine to pickup downstairs.

Throughout the hospital there were workers pushing around barrels of burning wood, and Melissa said this was to prevent spreading of the swine flu and other airborne virus. Bit hard to swallow the air, but along we went.

The pharmacy was built into the hospital, and we paid in cash, received the pills, it was rather seamless and direct.

china hospital checkout

So overall, my experience in the Shenzhen, China hospital was 1 hour, quick, easy, and CHEAP. I paid about 120 rmb ($16usd) for checkup, booklet, taxi, and medicine. Again, I hate comparing, but it made me realize how messed up the US healthcare system is…..

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  1. hey, it’s so interesting
    I’m wondering the US healthcare system now, hha

    1. Author

      man, you’re making me post more! Guess i’m getting used to writing so much! hehe

      Anyway, well the way it works in USA is this (try my best)

      1) have insurance plan, have to plan an appointment.

      2) go to the doctor – but its a small office usually, or a network of doctors (in the hospital, there are many private doctors that are independent companies)

      3) show your insurance card, they have the insurance company pay for hte visit, but you have to pay maybe $20 usd fee, depends on your insurance plan.

      4) see your doctor after sitting in the waiting room (usually a quiet room with magazines, soft chairs, etc)

      5) he checks you, says maybe you need medicine or to come back another time, or see a specialist doctor

      5a) if medicine, he writes prescription – which you can bring to separate store that sells the medicine (pharmacy), and pay for that, but usually the insurance company pays a percentage of it too

      5b) if you have to come back, schedule another appointment,

      5c) if a specialist doctor (for skin, bone, etc), then you have him recommend some, and then schedule an appointment with them.

      I would say that is about the normal way. The problem though, is many people take advantage of it, and then go too much, or take too much medicine, then the insurance company increases the fees. Then the doctors see the people going don’t pay, so they increase their fees, so the insurance company pays too much. So then more and more people have to pay a lot of money for going to the doctor, and no one can pay. The costs keep going up, so the companies cannot afford to help their workers pay for insurance. Then the insurance company is too expensive for the individual to afford, so then the person doesn’t get insurance.

      Then, if the person doesn’t get insurance, and has to go to hospital, the fees are very high, because the doctors charge a lot to the insurance companies, and the price is the same to the individual person.

      So this is basically the problem with insurance and healthcare in America now. The costs are too high, and many many people no longer have insurance …..

    1. Author

      I guess its hard for a government / country to take care of people these days. So many illnesses, so much costs to R&D for medicine, who should pay for it, who should profit from it.

      Easy for you and I to criticize the system, but to fix it is another thing….

  2. so you think the US System is messed up? the reason it is messed up and there are so many things to check is because in the US Hospitals are by law required to treat people that think they are dying. so if you don’t have insurance or a way to pay for healthcare, you just go to the ER and they technically have to see you or if something happens you can sue. You just went to a simple thing but imagine this

    going to the hospital without cash? what happens? what if you don’t have money to pay do they not cover you? seriously what if you didn’t have money on you no id, no nothing, couldnt speak but was bleeding, would they take care of you or what?

    The problem with healthcare in the US is dealing with the people that cant afford it. Hospitals lay off the costs of those that cant afford it onto people that can afford it.

    how do they take care of people that cant pay for healthcare in china?

    was the hospital you went to a private firm or was it a government hospital?

  3. You did not get real illness in China,if so,you will know how bad hospital here. maybe it is not complicate as usa,but actually we do not have healthcare without money. Money first is the fact.At least the usa hospital focus on the people’s life and health whatever you have money or not,you are an american or not. China just focus on money…. of course gov is trying to change and make it better.but actually the money first never changed. By the way,i hate hospital and hate to go too.

  4. @mike time to add a comments-reply plugin, haha, so many people talk

  5. Author

    @Piotr – hah, I knew this would fire you up! Yes, healthcare is a big issue in America, seems to be dragging it down. But I don’t think just the fact that they have to take care of people who cannot afford it is the reason, I think its the middlemen in between. Middlemen then create inefficiencies, adding “profit margins” and people that don’t even know the real costs of healthcare, just let the insurance company take care of it.

    As you can see in Echo’s post, China hospital will not take care of you if you don’t pay. In my post I mentioned they made me pay BEFORE they treated me. There were cashiers all over the hospital.

    And it was a public hospital as well.

    @Echo – ya, it seems China is more cruel then America, seems almost 2 extremes of the pole. One is paying for everything and not worrying about how much it will cost or how it will pay for it, and the other will only allow people to get treated if they pay upfront.

    Maybe we need something in between China and America to solve the problem…..

    and life goes on….makes us all appreciate our health, right

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  7. The other thing is that the Chinese doctors and nurses and everyone make relatively little money. This may be justified – the Chinese talk about their doctors like they are little more than glorified drug dealers and everyone advises me, if I get sick (more than a cold, duh), I should leave China immediately. It’s not just that the treatment would be expensive – effective treatment may not exist.

    1. Author

      hi there Clint,

      Yes, I think because the healthcare system is different in China, and the costs for the general public are much lower, the doctors are there fore lower paid….

      Maybe thats a negative compared to the USA, but then again, its more fair to allow the common man / woman on the street to get treatment…..

      I am getting a general operation in the next couple weeks, I have a small lump in my back….yes, I am going to do it in China… friends back in USA say I am crazy, but I’ll do it and let you know……

      I’m not sure about the drug dealer phrase in your comment either..US doctors are paid to push certain pills over other brands too….Pills make the pain go away, take 2 with water, get some rest. Easy, right?

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