Emerging Trends in Chinese Healthcare: The Impact of a Rising Middle Class

Journal of the International Hospital Federation Volume 44 Number 4

In this report, the authors examine a major phenomenon in the Chinese healthcare marketplace: the explosion of a vigorous and demanding middle class and its impact on the future directions the industry should pursue.
Little is known about the expectations of the middle class regarding their healthcare needs other than through anecdotal or informal sources. The views of the middle class are shaped by a variety of influences which include exposure through direct personal contact with international healthcare facilities when traveling abroad or indirectly through increased exposure to the entertainment industry with its abundance of hospital and medical dramas. In addition to a general increased international awareness arising from more advanced education, the perspective of the middle class consumer is also shaped by the reality of what is currently available in China and what is realistic to expect. This report addresses this lack of factual data through an extensive survey of middle class consumers in three major cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu.

The survey took a practical and pragmatic approach to exploring this issue. No attempt was made in this study to explain why the consumer feels the way they do about their healthcare expectations. The purpose was simply to
outline what expectations the middle class have for the healthcare  marketplace in China.

In some respects the results are not surprising. They are the expectations that people have in any country, any where. They expect greater privacy and dignity in the care-giving process. They want to be more involved in the
decisions that are made regarding their care. They would prefer a personal, private physician as opposed to a revolving door of faces they will never see a second time. They rely strongly on family and friends to advise them on
their choice of provider. They expect clean, well-maintained facilities, efficient systems and courteous personnel.

In other respects, the conclusions are not necessarily expected. They feel strongly that their hospital or provider of care should be located in a residential area. They are willing in some circumstances to pay more for their care in order to meet their expectations but not significantly more. Despite acknowledging that many of the facets of care they seek such as greater respect for privacy and a generally perceived more positive attitude in the care-giving process are found in foreign physicians, middle class consumers do not express a strong preference for foreign physicians but opt instead for Chinese physicians.

In conclusion, the results provide an insight into the expectations held by middle class Chinese of their healthcare providers and outlines a direction for future healthcare development.