China’s Healthcare Reform to Include Liability Insurance and Mediation Services

As I discovered during my recent trip to China to explore international ventures, the country is very excited about the new healthcare reform that began this year. The five-year reform roadmap is extremely comprehensive and is set to improve many aspects of the current healthcare system, such as adding critical illness coverage and improving the infrastructure of hospitals. However, this article will focus on the plan to reduce a hospital’s operating costs by implementing liability insurance for physicians and offering mediation services in the case of a medical malpractice suit.

Why Liability Insurance and Mediation is Necessary

As has been read in both Western and Chinese newspapers, attacks against hospital personnel have grown dramatically in recent years. Even when a doctor has done everything correctly, if the result is not what the family had hoped for, they will oftentimes respond with violence against hospital personnel. In the year 2012, there were 28 people injured and seven killed as a result of attacks on hospital medical staff. Lexology, an online research resource that gathers intelligence from law firms worldwide, reports that the Chinese government has enacted reforms to include both liability insurance and mediation services to help resolve disputes between the parties.

How It Will Benefit Hospitals and Patients

According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, liability insurance and mediation programs should be in place by the end of 2015 for the majority of Chinese hospitals. This will benefit both the hospitals and patients in many ways:

  • When a patient believes medical malpractice has occurred—whether or not it actually did—a mediator will be appointed to serve as a nonbiased party to initiate communication between the two parties in hopes of preventing a lawsuit or violence. The city of Tianjin has been testing medical mediation since 2007, and, as reported by the China Daily, they have had an 87.3% success rate.
  • With liability insurance in place, hospitals will no longer have to take on the financial burden of a malpractice suit. Instead, liability insurance will make payments to the patient where deemed necessary.
  • With the addition of mediation and liability insurance, China hospitals will not have to be tied up in lengthy lawsuits. Experts predict that instead of taking years, complaints can be resolved in a much shorter period of time.

The addition of liability insurance and mediation services to the healthcare landscape in China is major step forward. Hopefully, it will reduce the number of lawsuits and violent incidents, resulting in an improved atmosphere for practitioners and their patients.

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