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Doctors and Medical Care in China

There are two main types of medical care in China: Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The Chinese tend to use both of these mutually exclusive systems. For some ailments (such as broken bones, infections, acute problems) many Chinese people will go to the Western doctor. But for more chronic issues or to cultivate [...]

There are two main types of medical care in China: Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The Chinese tend to use both of these mutually exclusive systems. For some ailments (such as broken bones, infections, acute problems) many Chinese people will go to the Western doctor. But for more chronic issues or to cultivate general health they go to the Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. A traveler in China should follow a similar pattern.

Both Western and TCM doctors often work in the same place: the public hospitals. Except for “foreigner” or VIP clinics there are no private doctor offices in China, as everyone just goes to the hospital for everything. So if you have a cold, a broken arm, or just want a massage, the hospital is the place to go.

Medical care in China is made to be affordable and is generally cheap. For most ailments you can get fixed up for under $10. For larger problems don’t expect to drop over $100 unless your needs are severe.

To go to a Chinese hospital just walk in, go to the registration desk, pay a small registration fee (you should be given a card), go and pay a general visit fee, then take the receipt in to the doctor. After you’re inspected you will most often be given a prescription that you can fill at the hospital’s pharmacy. These hospitals may seem at first to be chaotic, but using them is often a pretty straight forward process. The same process goes for TCM care.

Filed under: China, Medical Care

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3548 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • wade January 30, 2010, 2:15 am

    Medical care in China is good and cheap. Have no fear. You have a choice between Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine. If you have an acute problem – like a broken arm – go to a Western doctor, for everything else go to a traditional doctor.

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