The number of hospitals in China has increased significantly over the seven decades from approximately 2,600 in 1949 to 33,000 hospitals in 2018.

Classification of Chinese Hospitals

Both public and private hospitals in China are classified in a 3-tier system that recognizes a hospital's ability to provide medical care, medical education, and conduct medical research. Based on this, hospitals are classified as Primary (I class), Secondary (II class) or Tertiary (III class) institutions. This is according to their level of service provision, size, medical technology, medical equipment, management, and medical quality. These 3 grades are further subdivided into 3 subsidiary levels: (甲 [jiǎ], 乙 [yǐ], 丙 [bǐng]) or A, B, and C) This results in a total of 9 levels. There is also, one special level – the best of the best hospital is called sān jí tè děng (三级特等 3 Grades and 10 levels) – this is reserved for the most specialized hospitals.

A primary hospital is typically a township hospital that contains less than 100 beds. They are tasked with providing preventive care, minimal health care, and rehabilitation services. Secondary hospitals tend to be affiliated with a medium-sized city, county, or district and contain more than 100 beds, but less than 500. They are responsible for providing comprehensive health services, as well as medical education and conducting research on a regional basis.

Tertiary hospitals round up the list as comprehensive or general hospitals at the city, provincial or national level with a bed capacity exceeding 500. They are responsible for providing specialized health services performing a larger role with regards to medical education and scientific research, and they serve as medical hubs providing care to multiple regions.


Number Beds Personnel Bed Utilization Average Number of Outpatients per Year
Tertiary institutions 2,548 ≥500 ≥1.03 doctors per bed
≥0.4 nurse per bed
≥2 clinical dietitians
100% 520,000
Secondary institutions 9,017 100-499 ≥0.88 doctor per bed
≥0.4 nurse per bed
≥3 fellows
80% 120,000
Primary institutions 10,831 20-99 ≥0.7 doctor per bed
≥3 doctors
≥5 nurses in total
55% 30,000

Source: China Health Statistical Yearbook, 2019, National Health Commission of the People's Republic of China

How to Visit a Hospital in China?

The Chinese health-care system centers on public hospitals. Unlike many countries where you visit a general practitioner or a neighborhood clinic, it is very common in China to visit the hospital for routine concerns as well as for emergencies. Most hospitals in China work with health-care apps for booking routine appointments (but the catch is you need a Chinese ID number). If you don’t have a Chinese ID number, you need to line up at the registration counter, wait to see the doctor, then get the doctor’s diagnosis or tests, then make payment and obtain your medicine.

  1. 1. Go to the main cash register to sign up (you can’t do it in advance), they you’ll get a Sequence Number
  2. 2. You need to wait until they call you by number or name and go to the doctor they have assigned you.
  3. 3. After seeing the doctor, he/she will prescribe you drugs or will carry out tests, so you will have to go to the cash register once again and pay.
  4. 4. Once you have paid, you need to go to the pharmacy or the place to get your tests done and show your receipt.

Top 5 Public Hospitals in China

Considering the factors such as clinical competence, scientific research, and academic rigor, the Fudan University Institute of Hospital Management listed the top 100 hospitals in China, with the top 5 are:

Peking Union Medical College Hospital

Founded by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1921, the hospital has maintained its leading position as one of the top-ranking hospitals in China for over 80 years. With the most advanced medical equipment and technologies in China, the hospital has 40 clinical departments and 15 adjunct departments, including 10 national key disciplines (in 12 departments).

West China Hospital of Sichuan University

Also known as Huaxi Hospital or The International Hospital of Sichuan Province, West China the hospital of Sichuan University is a large and historic public health-care facility situated in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, south-west of China. It was founded in 1892 by the joint efforts of Christian missions and became one of the leading hospitals in the country since the early 20th century. In 2000 the facility merged with Sichuan University and became a medical teaching and research center for seven medical colleges. The hospital has been repeatedly named among the three best and leading ones in China that combines the old traditions of the famous local medicine and modern health-care technologies.

The General Hospital of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (aka 301 Hospital, Beijing)

The General Hospital of the People's Liberation Army (PLAGH) was founded in 1953. With a good integration of medical care, education, and research, the PLAGH has 165 clinical, medical and technological departments and 4,000 patient beds, and an annual volume of more than 3.8 million outpatient visitors, over 11,0000 admissions, and more than 65,000 operations. Besides civilian patients, the PLAGH has provided health and medical care to the leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, the Central Military Commission, the PLA's general headquarters, and to the troops stationed in Beijing.

It is also the medical school for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. It is one of the first institutions authorized by the Academic Degree Committee of the State Council to confer doctoral and master’s degrees.

Ruijin Hospital of Shanghai Jiaotong University

Founded in 1907, the Ruijin Hospital is a renowned general hospital in Shanghai. It is a university hospital affiliated with the School of Medicine of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The hospital has 42 clinical departments and eight departments of medical technology. It covers an area of 120,000 square meters and is equipped with 1774 beds. The hospital boasts some world-recognized medical experts, who enjoy a relatively high celebrity status both at home and abroad, such as Chen Zhu, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wang Zhenyi, and Chen Saijuan, who are members of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai

Founded in 1937, the hospital was the first large-scale general hospital managed by Chinese people. Previously affiliated to Shanghai Medical College, the hospital was first named Sun Zhongshan Memorial Hospital to commemorate the pioneer of Chinese democratic revolutionist Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Later it was renamed Zhongshan Hospital. In December 1991, Zhongshan Hospital was approved by the Ministry of Health as one of the first top tertiary hospitals in Shanghai. It has more than 4,000 employees, including more than 600 professor-level physicians, two members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and two members of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Private Hospitals in China

With the development of the Chinese economy, the people's growing awareness of health- care and the acceleration of an aging population has brought prosperity to China's private hospital industry. Public hospitals are always very crowded. The government encourages the in-rush of social capital into the medical care industry, leading to a surge in the number of private hospitals. As of February 2019, there have been 21,165 private hospitals in China, including 2,185 new ones compared with the same period of 2018. Experts predict that there will be 35,900 private hospitals at the end of 2023. Social capital largely flows to specialized hospitals that need low investment but produce a high return on investment and are in demand. In China, over 65% of private hospitals are specialized hospitals. Revenue of Chinese specialized hospitals has been growing at a rate of 20% or so over the years, and currently outstrips RMB400 billion.

As living conditions rise and an increase in disposable income, so does the need for dental services, leading to a burgeoning dental market in China. In 2017, there were around 135 dentists per million citizens in China, and in 2018 this figure rose 12% and reached 150. There is a massive gap in comparison to developed countries, showing immense potentials of the Chinese market. According to research, the China Dental Market is expected to reach US$16.6 billion by the end of 2025.

Among specialized hospitals, ophthalmic hospitals, stomatological hospitals, and plastic surgery hospitals are very lucrative, all with a profit margin of above 10%. One of the largest private hospital chains is Aier Eye Hospital. It is China's biggest ophthalmic hospital chain with over 290 outlets nationwide and expanded its business to Germany (with the acquisition of Clinica Baviera in 2017), Spain and Italy, in 2018 boasted 5.5 million outpatient visits and recorded RMB8.01 billion in revenue and RMB1.07 billion in net income, presenting a net margin of 13.3%.

Another infamous hospital chain is the Putian Hospitals. It is owned by a group that is colloquially known as the "Four Big Families." The name is literal because it refers to four inter-related families from a single town, Putian in southern China's Fujian Province, that have created what can be described as a health-care cartel. In its heyday, it controlled 80% of private hospitals in China. Their principle is- profit maximization by any means possible. They spend vast amounts of money on internet advertising to draw in a large number of customers that only know how to find a hospital by searching on Baidu (China’s leading search engine). Putian's many hospitals drew the unsophisticated in because their prices, initially, seem cheap but later charging an exorbitantly large sum of money and their treatments were mostly ineffective.

China’s Best International Hospitals for Visitors and Expatriates

Besides public hospitals, there are superb hospitals for international tourists and expatriates in China, especially in metropolitan cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chengdu. They have English speaking staff and advanced facilities, therefore highly recommended to international visitors and the expats.

Beijing:

Beijing United Family Healthcare

  • Address: 2 Jiangtai Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing
  • Phone Number: 4008-919191

Peking Union Medical College Hospital, International Medical Services

  • Address: 53 Dong Dan North Road, Dong Cheng District, Beijing
  • Phone Number: 010-6529-4088

AMCARE Women’s & Children’s Hospital

  • Address: No. 9 Fangyuan West Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing
  • Phone Number: 010-6434-2388

China-Japan Friendship Hospital International Medical Center

  • Address: 2 Yinghua East Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing
  • Phone Number: 010-6422-3209

Shanghai:

Shanghai Landseed International

  • Address: 102 Qinjiang Road, Xuhui, Shanghai
  • Phone Number: 021-6195-7888

Huashan Hospital (Huashan Worldwide Medical Center)

  • Address: No.12,Wulumuqi Zhong Road. Shanghai
  • Phone Number: 021-5288-9999

Shanghai Meihua Women and Children Hospital

  • Address: No. 155, Songyuan Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai
  • Phone Number: 400-163-4482

Shanghai United Family Hospital

  • Address: 1139 Xianxia Road, Changning District, Shanghai
  • Phone Number: 400-639-3900

Guangzhou:

Global Doctor Guangzhou Clinic

  • Address: Room 401-403 (3A), Morgan Business Center, North Tower, Fuli Yingli Mansion, 3 Hua Qiang Road, Pearl River New City, Tianhe District, Guangzhou
  • Phone Number:

New Omega Medical Center – Canadian Immigration Medical Examination Centre

  • Address: 9/F, Center Plaza, East Railway Station, Guangzhou
  • Phone Number: 020-2886-1900

Clifford Hospital, VIP Center

  • Address: Shi Guang Road, Pan Yu District, Guangzhou
  • Phone Number: 020-8471-8123

Chengdu

Global Doctors Chengdu Clinic

  • Address: No.62, Kehua Bei Road, Lippo Tower, 2nd Floor, Section S, No. 9 – 11, Chengdu
  • Phone Number: 028-8528-3638

Sichuan International Medical Center

  • Address: 37, Guo Xue Lane, Chengdu
  • Phone Number: 028-8200-9999

Interesting Facts about Hospitals in China

The Largest Hospital in China

First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University is one of the major health-care hubs and provides vital medical and health facilities for the whole country. As the largest Level-3/Grade-A hospital in Henan, it integrates medical treatment, prevention, health-care, and recuperation, along with teaching and research.

It presently covers an area of 454,600 sqm for 95 clinical departments, 239 inpatient wards, and 10,000 beds; it handles over 4.2 million ambulatory care visits and over 300,000 inpatient admissions, including 160,000 surgical operations. The health and medical staff number more than 11,000 and more than 1,600 of them hold a doctor’s degree.

The Oldest Western-Style Hospital in China

Canton Hospital, also known as Ophthalmic Hospital in Canton (now known as Guangzhou), was established by Peter Parker (1804–1888), a Yale University-trained missionary and physician, on November 4, 1835. In 1866, it established the Boji Medical School. Dr.Sun Yat-sen, the first president of the Republic of China or China’s George Washington, had received medical training at the school in 1886. Hence its current name Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University.

The Coronavirus Hospitals Built in 10 days

To fight the deadly coronavirus, the Chinese government built two makeshift hospitals in Wuhan, one named the Huoshenshan Hospital, and was completed in 10 days, with 1,000 beds and, covered an area of 25,000 square meters (269,000 square feet).

The other is the Leishenshan Hospital with an area of 30,000 square meters (323,000 square feet) with 1,600 beds.

They were used as a quarantine facility hospital for infectious patients, with safety and protective gear were in place for medical staff.

By Leon Long
Travel Specialist