An employee is standing behind the reception desk of Wellem, a pediatric clinic, at the shared medical mall in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang Province, on September 21, 2017. Photo: IC
The opening of a medical mall in East China’s Zhejiang Province is reaping the benefits of the trendy sharing economy. Experts said the new form of medical institution can help improve the overall quality of China’s healthcare services. However, it needs more time and better policies to properly take root.
The country’s first so-called medical mall, the latest edition to the red-hot sharing economy, recently opened in Hangzhou, capital of East China’s Zhejiang Province, Beijing-based Economic Information Daily (EID) reported on October 24.
The mall, situated in a building at a downtown commercial area, has attracted 13 medical institutions which will share medical services offered by a third party – Quancheng International Medical Center. The services, provided by technological departments run by Quancheng, will include such ones as basic check-ups, ultrasounds and medical images. They will also include shared pharmacies and surgery rooms.
The opening of the mall comes at a time when a string of sharing economy models are blossoming in the medical sector. In Guangzhou, capital of South China’s Guangdong Province, the local government set up a platform in July to allow as many as 2,000 doctors to conduct multi-site, on-the-ground practices.
Experts said such a model could reduce the cost of setting up and operating medical practices through private capital, yet it faces challenges from matters such as the country’s closed-off medical insurance system and gaining trust from patients, according to the EID report.
A new thing
The Hangzhou medical mall is situated at a major commercial complex, of which six stories in the lower part are occupied by retail shops and the upper 16 stories are occupied by medical institutions.
Out of the 13 institutions that have already moved in, 10 have started operating on a trial basis. The occupants include a facial surgery parlor, a pediatric institution and a traditional Chinese medicine pharmacy.
Yu Xinle, an official at the Health and Family Planning Commission of Zhejiang Province, was quoted as saying by the EID that the purpose of having a shared medical mall is to better improve the utilization rate of medical resources.
“The affiliate medical institutions that chose to move into the mall can be assets-light. Skilled and experienced doctors with a reputation can even set up their practices with only one suitcase,” Yu said.
“The prospect of a scarcity of resources had daunted our ambition to set up an offline clinic at other sites in Hangzhou,” said Zhang Qiang, founder of Shanghai-based Dr. Smile Medical Group.
“After moving in, we found that many other reputable specialized hospitals are also here,” Zhang said. “This pool of medical resources translated into a certain appeal to patients, and the sitting together with a commercial complex helped narrow down our patient target group – those with certain incomes and requirements.”
Compared with traditional hospitals across the country, those institutions operating in the medical mall offer a better environment and more privacy, and only receive clients via appointments, according to the EID report.
A pediatric clinic, for example, treats three to five children with pre-booked appointments on a daily basis, with a registered fee of 350 yuan ($52.79). To put that into perspective, the same fee at a top-class hospital in Beijing can cost as low as 10 yuan.
Li Qing, an industry analyst, said medical malls have been in existence in developed countries including the US, Singapore and Japan since the 1980s.
It is a patchwork of multiple medical institutions that offer niche medical services with an emphasis on patient experience, thus putting pressure on traditional big hospitals, said Li, noting that such an existence can actually improve the quality of services in the overall medical sector.
Yu pointed out that development in the medical industry and the climate for innovation in Zhejiang Province were the prerequisites of the nation’s first medical mall.
Data from the Health and Family Planning Commission of Zhejiang Province shows that as of the end of 2016, there were 14,345 private-funded medical institutions across the province. A total of 693 private hospitals offered 62,766 beds, which accounted for 24.17 percent of the provincial total. And there were also 38,900 professional doctors working at these private-funded institutions, or 23.11 percent of the province’s total.
In September, Tencent Doctorwork, an online and offline medical institution invested by Internet giant Tencent Holdings, also announced its operation, adhering to its buzzword of the ”sharing economy”.
Thanks to the institution, patients can complete a number of self-run medical check-ups.
Experts reinforced that health and safety is the bottom line of medical institutions, which have the responsibility of ensuring public good. As such, they warned that these institutions should not prioritize generating profits.
Meanwhile, other industry insiders noted that nurturing trust among the general public is also a thorny subject for these independent medical institutions.
Ground-level implementation of multiple-site practice policies still needs improvement, and the current closed-off nature of China’s social security system means that clients are not able to pay for many of the services offered at the mall via their social security accounts, experts pointed out, according to the EID report.
The current regulations governing the medical system, which are pretty much devised to govern the incumbents, still do not harmonize with the sharing economy model, the report said, citing some opinions.
Yu said the mall is still a nouveau business. While the bottom line is guarded, it should be run on a trial-and-error basis and discover its highlights in good time, noted Yu.
Source: Global Times