Should you run a public hospital or a private clinic in China?
There is a rising dema...
This article was originally published in the August issue of Healthcare Global magazine. To read additional features, click here.
There is a rising demand for health services as the population increases, and the industry has realized that to meet the public’s demand it is impossible to solely rely on hospitals. Of course, the discussion of expanding existing hospitals by adding beds and prolonging doctors’ hours has been held by many within the industry but that won’t resolve the issue at hand. What we need now is to further expand community medical services via private clinics.
Public hospitals in China have remained underdeveloped for years, according to Beijing Review, the reason being due to a shortage of doctors. With this in mind, how can private clinics rise? The answer: doctors.
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Doctors are the best medical resource as they are already supposed to operate in accordance with the rules of the market. To solve the issue of persuading patients who prefer large, public hospitals to attend community medical agencies, one must look to mobility.
If doctors from public hospitals are willing to open their own clinics, policy support should be offered to them, the source states.
“The reality is the country's best doctors and medical experts are serving in public hospitals in big cities, and as a result, patients from around the country rush to these hospitals for medical treatment,” Guo Changsheng told Beijing Review. To encourage on-the-job doctors to open clinics means medical resources will be distributed in accordance with market rules, which will mobilize current medical resources to the largest extent. The major objective for this policy is to cushion the conflicts between the public's huge demand for quality medical treatment and the limited medical resources, particularly excellent doctors.”
Conflicts may arise when doctors run their own clinics while keeping their posts in larger hospitals at the same time. They key to dissolving these conflicts is balance. An additional issue is that private clinics are unlikely to be covered by the country’s medical system.
“A major obstacle for the establishment of private clinics is the complicated and strict approval procedure. Compared to public hospitals, these clinics will bear heavy tax burdens and difficulty in purchasing medical equipment,” added Changsheng.
According to experts, most doctors feel they will not choose to operate a private clinic.
The fear of sacrificing personal time is one that has held doctors back from venturing into open waters. As a result, patients have also begun to fear whether their doctors are overworked, therefore hindering the quality of medical services provided.
Moving towards accessibility
In Beijing’s larger hospitals, it is reported that one doctor could receive an average of nearly 100 patients every day, sometimes even around 200. But, private clinics have their advantages.
Doctors have accumulated a lot of experience from big hospitals and are usually capable of communicating with patients. These clinics don't need medical inspection equipment, or other expensive hardware, as they can entrust a qualified third party to do the necessary physical examination for patients.
As with every industry, here are pros and cons to remaining solely in a public hospital setting:
Payment security: Both staff and physicians are assured of their incomes in a public hospital. Incomes are also sometimes higher.
Less administrative troubles: The hospital will worry less about issues such as human resources, billing and collecting, rent and overhead.
Compensation can be changed: Nearly all hospitals pay on some form of production-based compensation formula but that does not mean that can’t change.
You may be judged by new metrics: Hospitals are aggressively adopting quality and patient satisfaction measures that are part of the overall compensation plan.
“Although the policy grants individual doctors the freedom to run their own clinics, hospitals tend to hold on to their best doctors and prevent them from leaving,” said Lei Hongpei. “However, if doctors and hospitals can reach a balance in terms of economic interests and various other aspects, medical capacity will be improved, and this is beneficial to the public.”
“Private clinics are mostly operating in communities, where doctors are badly needed, Hongpei added. “Patients who usually find it difficult to see a doctor in big hospitals will now have easy access to quality doctors in community clinics. On the basis of doing well in hospitals, doctors can make extra money in their private clinics.”
Many physicians enjoy a hospital association and some simply don’t. The bottom line? Do what works best for your daily routine and how you believe you can best treat your patients.
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.