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Tips for expats on finding a pediatrician in China

If you have a baby on the way, there is practically no end to the thoughts going through your head throughout the day in preparation for his or her arrival. One that may be on the back burner is finding a pediatrician, but there's no time like now to look ahead to your child's medical care. Here we review China's pediatrician situation, and share some tips on how to find the doctor that's right for your child.

Posted on Aug 08, 2016 by Travis Jones

Given the situation concerning childbirth in China over the past 4 decades or so, it may come as no surprise that China is currently suffering a serious shortage of pediatricians. Ever since China’s One Child Policy began to roll out in 1978 as a measure to control the growth of the country’s population, the population has become accustomed to only having one child in their family. Likewise, the healthcare system in China has adapted to having enough pediatricians to service this population.  However, in October 2015 the announcement was made that the One Child Policy will be coming to an end; ushering in the new era of Chinese citizens being allowed to have two children. Thus, China needs to make sure that it is prepared for an influx of newborns, as the rise of the middle class in China has ensured that many parents have the means to expand their families.

China’s pediatrician shortage

The current situation regarding pediatricians in China is already dire, though. The ratio of doctors to children in the country is 1 for every 2,300, while a country like the United States has one doctor for every 700 children. For China, this ratio is not improving. From 2010 to 2015 the country actually lost 5,000 pediatricians to bring the total number in the country to 100,000. So how many doctors does China believe will be needed to address the shortage enough to meet future demands? The government’s best guess at this point is 200,000, a tripling of the current amount.  The situation has even become so pronounced that it has led to the closure of entire pediatric wards in the country, not because of lack of demand or funding, but simply because there are not enough doctors to justify them.  Some parents are even opting to try to care for their children at home, rather than fight the crowds at the doctor’s office.

China’s shortage of pediatricians has certainly made the prospect of not being able to find adequate healthcare for your child a concern. To see a pediatrician at a public hospital could involve incredibly long lines in all aspects of the process, and then, once you see the doctor, you are likely to only get a cursory experience, as doctors will be hard pressed for time in trying to see as many patients as they can. In fact, doctors’ offices will go as far as to not provide chairs to dissuade inquisitive parents from sticking around too long to pry for information. This makes private hospitals even more valuable than in many countries, as not only can you avoid some of the wait times and other hassles found in the public health sector, but you can also guarantee more time with and information from your doctor. This isn’t to say that you should just accept the first pediatrician that you find. The health of your baby will, no doubt, be important enough to you that you will want to shop around. With this in mind, Pacific Prime would like to present you with a few tips on finding the right pediatrician for you.

Tips for finding a good pediatrician for your baby

When to start your search: No need to wait for baby’s arrival to start researching pediatricians. It’s best to start checking out the doctors available in your area while the bun is still in the oven. It has actually been proven that there is a benefit in deciding on your pediatrician before birth, as children that see the same doctor for the first 6 months of their life are two times more likely to get health tests before the age of 2 that they likely would not have received otherwise. Find some time up to 4 months before your due date to start making a short list of candidates.

Research: During your pregnancy, it is likely that you will already have been given the names of multiple pediatricians by friends, family, doctors and well-wishers in your area. Just keep in mind that a pediatrician that was a good fit for someone else may not be the best fit for you. This is where research plays an important role. Since finding the right pediatrician is all about both their competency and your comfort level, you really will want to do an exhaustive check of available pediatricians in the area, as finding the doctor with the best blend of these two points can be daunting. Start by looking online for each doctor’s credentials. You can even call their office if need be. This is also a good time to decide if you are more interested in a pediatrician or a family doctor, with the benefit of the family doctor being that they can identify issues that are genetic or specific to your family. When gathering information about pediatrician’s offices in your area, don’t forget to consider relevant information, like how the doctor’s office interacts with your health insurance, the location of their office, and which hospitals the doctor is affiliated with.

Meet doctors: Now that you have a shortlist of doctors based on your research, it’s time to go and meet them in person. This will really be the way to narrow down truly viable options based on how good of a match the doctor is for based on personality, bedside manner, and ethos. Start with your top 3 doctors and move on from there. Make an appointment for a prenatal appointment or interview with their office, and lay out some topics of conversation that you are somewhat knowledgeable about, such as vaccines or breastfeeding.  To be clear, it’s okay to ask probing questions, but make sure there is a point to each one. After all, there is no reason to make the doctor feel like they’re being investigated over topics that you don’t even find particularly important.

Some relevant questions might be, “How open is the doctor’s availability?” or, “If they work with a hospital or group practice, how likely is it you would be able to see them if you visited without an appointment?” Beyond this, whether through questioning others or noticing through your own interactions, there are other questions that you will want to have answered:

  • Do they seem to truly enjoy working with children?
  • Are they open to questions and take the time to address them all?
  • Does the doctor’s office staff provide excellent service?
  • Do the doctor’s facilities seem sterile and child-friendly?
  • Does the doctor’s medical facility have the latest technology?
  • Is there anything that sticks out to you as a negative aspect of the doctor or their office?
  • Do they have children of their own?
  • Do they have any specializations?
  • Are they reachable in an emergency?

Go with your gut: So that’s it. You’ve done the groundwork and narrowed down your options. Now it’s time to make a final decision. Which do you choose? All of the tangible elements necessary may be there for one doctor, but perhaps something about their personality didn’t sit quite right with you. Put all the factors together in your mind and go with the choice that you feel most comfortable with. After all, different doctors will appeal to different sets of parents.

Observe performance:  Now that the hard part is done, it’s not a bad idea to remain skeptical until your child’s doctor proves that they are a good fit long-term. Of course, you will be keeping an eye on both doctor and child during medical visits, but now you can take some time to chat up other parents in the waiting room to share your experiences. Any emergencies that arise will also be a good indicator of how seriously your pediatrician takes their work outside of normal hours.

Covering costs

Again, if you are planning on having solid access to a quality pediatrician in China, you are likely going to have to avail yourself of the private hospitals and clinics that the country has to offer. The big catch of using these facilities is that they will generally have a substantially higher price tag than their public counterparts. As a result, having comprehensive insurance for every member of your family is always a good idea for expats in China.

Pacific Prime China sells international health insurance plans that will not only provide benefits for treatment in the country, but also in virtually any other country worldwide. This makes our plans ideal for those that travel regularly. If you have any questions about obtaining quality healthcare for your child in China, or any other questions for that matter, our helpful insurance advisors are available to answer them all. Contact Pacific Prime China today!

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