NW province promotes micro blog health services

Updated: 2011-08-06 09:00

By Shan Juan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Health workers in northwest Gansu province have been asked by the local health administration to provide health advice and related services to the public via China's Twitter-like micro blogs, which now have 195 million users.

In a month, at least 2,500 local medical personnel of both Western and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are expected to open micro blog accounts at Sina Weibo and Tencent, China's top two micro blog account providers, said Liu Weizhong, director of the provincial health department.

"It's a brand-new channel to better serve the public on health. The public can become more familiar with health issues and take better care of themselves through having more accessible interaction with doctors on micro blogs," he told China Daily on Friday.

Many Chinese complain about the high cost and availability of medical treatment.

"At the heart of the problem is the huge number of patients. Medical workers should promote health education, primarily disease prevention information, to help people stay healthy," he said.

An online notice issued by the provincial health department on Thursday also asks local doctors to use micro blogs to guide people seeking treatment, to recommend suitable specialists, to solicit public opinion on local health issues, and to collect and inform the public on tried-and-tested, safe TCM remedies.

"So far, the call for voluntary participation has been well received by doctors," Liu said.

However, an internal-medicine doctor surnamed Xu, in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province, said he welcomed the idea but couldn't guarantee he could spend enough time on a micro blog or always give timely answers to patients' questions.

"I have to see more than 20 patients a day," he said.

In response, Liu said his department will organize a special group of micro-bloggers to ensure that there are always some doctors available to answer questions.

Some physicians are concerned about potential medical disputes.

Medical treatment is a highly personal, precise, and demanding issue, and the public should remain cautious about online health information, said an official with the Ministry of Health who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Liu emphasized, however, that the micro blog service concerns mainly health instructions and advice rather than medical treatment.

"And we'll draft guidelines and regulations to manage the platform well," he added.