Serve the People or Serve the Consumer? The Dilemma of Patient-Centred Health Care in China

Scientific Research Publishing, Inc,
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Health, 2019, 11 (02), pp. 233 - 248
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Patient-centred medicine is being adopted as national policies in many countries, encouraged by positive outcomes of the practice at clinical and organisational levels. This study examines the patient-centred health care reform in China, which has adopted the approach as a national policy for two decades but has yet to achieve the intended goals. Focusing on conflicting interpretations of the nature of patients at national, organisational, and individual levels, this article argues that such conflicts lead to clashes between the political agenda of the state, priorities of health organisations, professional choices of individual practitioners, and expectations of patients in the process of implementing, practicing, and receiving patient-centred health care in China. It reveals that the national health authority has intended patient-centredness as a universal, anti-market, people-centred approach, based on the health ideology of serving the people. But hospitals, compelled by financial restraints, have implemented it as a market approach centring on patients as consumers. Medical professionals and patients also possess contradictory views towards whether a patient should be perceived as a consumer. The discordance in the interpretation of the patient identity has caused great confusion in the implementation and provision of patient-centred health care. The study points out that the success of patient-centredness as national policy cannot be assumed on the basis of its success at clinical and organisational levels. More efforts are needed to coordinate the fundamental understanding of patient-centredness by different actors.
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