‘DREAM HOSPITAL’ COMES OF AGE Pilot HK-Shenzhen medical project is hailed as a breakthrough in cross-boundary medical collaboration, Willa Wu reports.
The University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital (HKU-Shenzhen Hospital) — a groundbreaking pilot project run by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Shenzhen municipal government — represents a testing ground for operating a hospital with two different medical systems, and its development in the past five years has been successful, says Hospital Chief Executive Lo Chung-mau.
The institution, which drew much public attention when it opened in July 2012, is also a splendid example of how crossboundar y medical collaboration can bring mutual benefits to Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, Lo tells China Daily in an interview.
“One plus one can be more than two,” says Lo, who also heads the Liver Transplant Centre at the Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong, and teaches at the HKU.
The HKU-Shenzhen Hospital, which serves as a public hospital in Shenzhen but sticks to a Hong Kong management model and hospital culture, currently has 250 Hong Kong doctors, who are licensed to practice on the mainland and make up about half of the hospital’s total pool of doctors employed.
The difference between the medical systems of Hong Kong and Shenzhen is stark. One major difference is the way public hospitals finance themselves. In Hong Kong, public hospitals are financed mainly by the government, while hospitals on the mainland are responsible for their own profits or losses.
Mainland public hospitals are, thus, often criticized for overcharging patients for unnecessary medications like antibiotics and intravenous injections, as well as dispensable examinations using expensive medical devices.
“We need to respect the mainland system, but that doesn’ t mean we can’t improve on it. After all, hospitals are geared to patients, not profit-oriented,” stresses Lo.
The HKU-Shenzhen Hospital has launched reforms in various aspects, including pricing. It pioneered a package pricing system for its outpatient clinic, inpatient departments, as well as surgical procedures. Patients need to pay a fixed, one-off fee covering standard check-ups, medication, surgery and consultation.
“Package pricing pre vents doctors from prescribing unnecessary medications and using expensive medical devices in treating patients. Therefore, it plays an effective role in cutting down patients’ medical bills,” says Lo.
Citing gall bladder removal surger y, he says the normal rate charged by other Shenzhen public hospitals is close to 20,000 yuan (HK$22,748). At the HKU-Shenzhen Hospital, it’s just 11,000 yuan. “The system is reassuring for patients. They need not worry about being subject to unnecessary treatment or having to shoulder excessive medical bills. It contributes to better doctor-patient relations and, eventually, attracts more patients.”
Another highlight of the pricing reform is raising the consultation fee as part of the package. Doctors in mainland hospitals generally charge patients no more than 10 yuan for consultation. While specialists would charge more, it’s still less than 20 yuan. At the HKU-Shenzhen Hospital, the consultation fee is set at 100 yuan.
“The self-financing system on the mainland also leads to another problem — people believe medicines are more important than doctors as they pay more for medicines than doctors’ professional advice. We need to correct this wrong concept. Doctors should be rewarded for their expertise, not the medicines they prescribe,” says Lo.
The HKU-Shenzhen Hospital is also striving to improve mainland medical system by introducing a new appointment setup — a common practice in Hong Kong but rarely seen in mainland public hospitals.
“The booking system offers multiple benefits. It maintains order in hospitals, guarantees the time doctors are assigned to every patient and protects patients’ privacy,” Lo explains.
But, to his surprise, the practice wasn’t well received when it was launched. Despite being repeatedly reminded about the procedure, patients still queued up at the hospital as early as 6 am.
“I was confused at first, but later found out it was because the patients did not trust the system. They would rather believe in themselves rather than in the hospital treating every patient fairly,” says Lo.
The cold response, however, did not force the hospital to scrap the procedure and it has managed to win back the trust of patients. According to Lo, about 3 million patients had been treated at the HKU-Shenzhen Hospital in the past five years based on the new booking system.
“We hope the Hong Kongstyle management would help ease some of the headaches the mainland faces in the medical field, and this would have a positive influence on people’s health,” adds Lo.
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Lo Chung-mau — hospital chief executive at the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital — says the institution is a splendid example of how cross-boundary medical cooperation can bring mutual benefits to Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.