Foreign doctors Jean-Pierre Dhenin and Gilbert Shia believe that China's healthcare system will have better productivity and doctor-patient relations if the GP model is adopted. Photos: Li Hao/GT
Adapting to Chinese patients
One facet of the Chinese healthcare system Shia would like to stamp out is "over treatment" of patients.
"Everybody gets a blood test and an intravenous drip, even the children," he said. "I want to educate parents to gradually change [the situation]. When kids have a fever, the parents panic. They need somebody to hold their hand and talk to them."
One thing that Shia didn't expect before he came to China was that many patients would offer to help him do his job by providing their own diagnosis and prescription recommendations.
"[Patients] order drugs as if they are ordering dishes. The prescription is already in their mind before I have a chance to examine them. It's as if they are the doctors and I'm just the prescription filler," he joked.
The problem of this phenomenon lies in patients' lack of trust in doctors, Shia said.
"On many occasions, they just ask their friends and families [about health issues] or make a judgment based on past experience. They don't have anybody they trust, so they solve health problems on their own," he said.
As for dealing with patients who have their mind made up on what medication they want, Dhenin said the best approach is to be firm. "You have to say, 'No, you don't need it.' Medication isn't something you can just order," he said.
Another interesting observation Shia has made is that although many Chinese patients are frugal about how much they spend within their medical insurance, they tend to spend big on specific medicines, folk remedies, health products and advertised appliances on their own.
Dhenin is intrigued by many patients who share their own traditional Chinese medicine-related theories when assessing their health. "When [Chinese] are sick, they still don't drink cold things. Maybe it's not scientific, but it's better and harmless in any case. I respect this kind of culture," he said.
As winter peaks and more people present flu-like symptoms, Dhenin said he has been inundated with patients. Despite having a busy work schedule, he enjoys his life in Beijing with his wife and two daughters, aged 20 and 17.
His palate has naturally adapted well to Chinese cuisine over the past decade, with the French doctor listing Chinese cabbage, tofu, pig intestines and ears, creamy sliced chicken and vermicelli with spicy minced pork among his favorite delicacies.
Dhenin admits he has developed a deep bond to Beijing, where he has overseen health scares including the outbreaks of SARS in 2003, H1N1 in 2006 and H7N9 earlier this year.
"They were stressful," he said of the incidents. "I think China has improved a lot over the past decade. What we want as doctors is to provide good care to patients."