What the US can learn from China's experiments with healthcare

The radical shifts in the structure of China's healthcare system provide important insights for the industry at large, David Blumenthal, M.D., of the Commonwealth Fund, and William Hsiao, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, write in an opinion piece in the New England Journal of Medicine. The country has gone from a centralized healthcare system operated by the Chinese Communist Party, to a largely unregulated system amid free market reforms, to reforms that provided modest, government-subsidized health insurance to 95 percent of the population and launched a new primary care system, the authors write. Along this rocky road of experimentation, China has learned three main lessons that apply globally: Community health workers such as its "barefoot doctors" can be a boon to the health of local populations; healthcare is subject to serious market failures that can leave patients vulnerable and result in social instability; and physician professionalism is vital to create a healthcare workforce that elicits public trust, according to the authors. Opinion piece