Shanghai International Hospital Guide

A Shanghai international hospital or clinic can be a great source of comfort for foreigners in Shanghai. This article will help you understand the benefits and costs of using their healthcare services in Shanghai.

We have a list of Shanghai international hospitals and clinics at the end of this article.

Most expats who have health insurance coverage provided by their company will choose one of these hospitals for foreigners in Shanghai when seeking medical care.

Most foreign medical insurance plans can be accepted for direct billing by these medical centers, while others can be used to get reimbursement after treatment based on receipts and doctor reports.

It is important to understand what your medical insurance plan will cover and how you can get reimbursed before using any services. If your medical insurance plan is not extensive then you should immediately let the doctor know your concerns about the fees and go over them in detail.

Shanghai International Hospital

Shanghai hospitals and clinics can be a maze of confusion for expats

Worth the Cost Even When Paying Yourself

Standard consultation fees at a Shanghai international hospital can range from US$70 to $200, much higher than at a public Shanghai hospital. The fees for tests and treatments are also much higher, sometimes several times the price.

United Family Healthcare (UFH), one of Shanghai's biggest international hospitals has published their prices for various outpatient services online.

Even if you need to cover some or all of the expenses yourself, however, there are many advantages to use the services of a Shanghai international hospital as compared to public hospitals.

Although none of them have the scale of Shanghai's large state-run hospitals they are growing in size and offering more services. Many also cooperate with the large public hospitals so they can make use of their premises and equipment when needed.

The doctors who work for international hospitals and clinics in Shanghai are usually foreigners, otherwise Chinese who have trained and worked overseas. Their English skills, therefore, are usually excellent. Doctors who speak other foreign languages are also available at many of these international hospitals.

It is quite easy to make a doctor's appointment over the phone for a Shanghai international hospital or clinic, something impossible to do for a Shanghai public hospital.

Long wait times for outpatient care is the number one complaint about public hospitals as confirmed by a recent survey of over 15,000 people in Shanghai. You will not have to worry about this at an international hospital in Shanghai.

Personal Care at a Shanghai International Hospital

The biggest benefit of using a Shanghai international hospital is the higher-quality service and personal care you will receive.

The doctor will:

  • Take the time to learn about your medical history and keep records for future reference.
  • Spend more time to analyze your general overall health.
  • Take more care to ensure you are not overusing medications.
  • As they are not rushed for time, the doctor will also give you more preventive care advice.

After a consultation and treatment, therefore, you will have the peace of mind that you have obtained quality care based on a thorough consideration of all your health issues.

Many of the international hospitals and clinics in Shanghai also offer mental health care services, maternity services and dental services for Shanghai expats.

Certainly Faster and Occasionally Cheaper Service

For small medical procedures the service at a Shanghai international hospital can sometimes be quicker and even cheaper than at a public hospital. 

One time the author needed to have a small skin lump removed in Shanghai. At the Huashan hospital I first needed to wait two hours to see a general doctor, who then referred me to see a specialist a few days later.

The specialist then recommended I book an appointment to remove the small growth, but the waiting list was two to three months long. The cost would be about RMB 1,300 (US$ 200) and I would have to pay a deposit immediately.

As I was not able to predict my schedule two months in advance I decided it would be better to go to a Shanghai international clinic and pay a bit extra to get quicker service.

I was able to immediately book an appointment over the phone and visited the clinic the same day. The consultation fee quoted on the phone was about RMB 500 (US$80).

After examination the doctor said she could immediately remove the growth and would only need to adjust the consultation fee to RMB 800 (US$ 120) and charge RMB 34 (US$ 5.20) for the required medicine.

On this occasion, I not only received much better and quicker service, but actually saved money by using a Shanghai international clinic.

Government Regulation of Shanghai International Hospitals

The main obstacles to the growth of foreign invested international hospitals in China are the regulations limiting ownership, and the difficulty for them to participate in the Chinese state health insurance scheme.

Only investors from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau are allowed to wholly own an international hospital in some cities in China, while investors from foreign countries are limited to less than 100 percent ownership, with the allowed amount varying by city.

The Chinese government announced, however, a goal for the private sector to provide approximately 20 percent of China's healthcare services, and foreign investors would be welcomed in helping to reach this goal.

Already many foreign invested Shanghai international hospitals and clinics have started to serve high-wealth local Chinese who are willing to pay out of their own pocket for higher quality healthcare.

Foreign invested hospitals and clinics are lobbying to participate in the state health insurance system so Chinese citizens would be able to at least partially reimburse some of their fees.

Many foreign investors are considering to establish new international clinics and hospitals in Shanghai's two new international medical zones in Hongqiao and Pudong.

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Everything that Shanghai Expats need to know