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March 28, 2013

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Family doc program to cover entire city by 2020

SHANGHAI plans to expand a pilot medical care program to the entire city by 2020, with each household signing up for family general physician services, the health bureau said yesterday.

It is expected to save cost for patients and alleviate pressure on city-level hospitals which are often overwhelmed with chronic and common cases. Two-year trials have started in the Pudong New Area and in Qingpu and Changning districts.

Residents would go to a neighborhood health center to see their GP for primary diagnosis and treatment, which usually costs less than at bigger hospitals, and then transfer to higher-level hospitals if needed. In non-emergency cases, the general physician arranges such transfers. The general physician helps control medical expenses and streamlines the medical procedure, officials said.

"Currently, patients can go to whichever hospitals they like and city-level hospitals are crowded with patients with chronic and common diseases, which is a huge waste of the limited medical resources," said bureau Director Xu Jianguang.

To encourage residents to sign up with GPs, local health authorities will offer more coverage by medical insurance, quicker access to higher-level hospitals and a comprehensive health database. Thirty more medicines that are available only at city-level hospitals will be offered at neighborhood health centers, where patients have complained about availability, Xu said.

The city has 4,229 registered GPs, less than half the number it would need under international standards of each GP serving 2,000 to 2,500 residents.


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