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Private sector offers doctors flexibility

By Liu Zhihua | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-21 10:47
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A plastic surgeon examines a patient who is about to undergo surgery in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Ongoing reforms remove restrictions on working independently, encourage surgeons to operate at multiple sites

Plastic surgeon Guo Shuzhong decided to resign from First Affiliated Hospital of Xi'an Jiaotong University in mid-2017 to establish a private plastic surgery hospital with a group of renowned doctors and investors.

Guo, now 56, conducted China's first and the world's second face transplant operation in 2006 at Xijing Hospital, a military hospital in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, where he worked for 33 years until late 2015, before joining the university hospital in early 2016.

He achieved international recognition again in late 2016 when he and his team grew a human ear on a man's arm after his ear was deformed in a car accident.

Now, as president and equity holder of First BCC Plastic Surgery Hospital in Beijing, Guo said he is satisfied with the current situation and looks forward to new possibilities, despite not being able to continue with basic scientific research.

"I earn much more money than I used to, but what's more valuable to me is the freedom to focus on ear surgeries and the agreeable work environment where both patients and doctors feel respected," he said.

His dream is to build a world-class ear reconstruction surgery center in China in terms of both surgery quality and quantity, and feels the private hospital is the right place to realize it.

In public hospitals, much of his energy was diverted to other plastic surgery fields he had little interest in, administrative affairs and training of young doctors.

Now he can spend more time on communicating with patients, has more outpatient visits for ear reconstruction, and performs more ear surgeries.

Guo is among a growing number of aesthetic medicine professionals venturing into the private sector in pursuit of higher pay and career advancement.

Despite a lack of reliable data on China's aesthetic medicine professionals practicing in private facilities, China's leading online platform for aesthetic medicine, the Nasdaq-listed So-Young International Inc, reported impressive growth in the third quarter of 2019, with most registered practitioners coming from the private sector.

So-Young's total revenue in the third quarter of 2019 reached 302.4 million yuan ($43.35 million), a 79.6-percent increase year-on-year, while profit from operations was 20 million yuan compared with a loss of 22.1 million yuan in the same period of 2018.

Du Taichao, an eminent plastic surgeon with Beijing Huangsi Aesthetical Surgery Hospital, attributes the surging number of aesthetic medicine practitioners in the private sector to China's ongoing medical reforms that optimize distribution of resources under market mechanism, particularly to the policies that remove restrictions on independent practice and encourage licensed doctors to practice at multiple sites.

Internet applications, especially social media and specialist platforms for aesthetic medicine, also make it easier for doctors to promote themselves, he said.

Gengmei, a Chinese online aesthetic medicine platform, said about 20,000 doctors and 8,000 facilities have registered on it, among which 90 percent are from the private sector.

So-Young provides a variety of tools for doctors to create and promote online content as well as channels for doctor-patient communication, including online consultancy, video sharing and livestreaming, to help doctors and facilities gain professional reputations and provide services.

In 2019, the gross merchandise volume of 423 doctors on the platform surpassed 1 million yuan, increasing 70 percent from 2018.Their average income through the platform was 2.03 million yuan, with average customer expenditure increasing 31.53 percent, figures from the company showed.

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