A top hospital in Central China has introduced a system of demerits to punish doctors who improperly prescribe drugs for purposes such as bumping up revenue from patients.
Similar to the system for Chinese drivers, physicians at Central Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, started the year with 12 points. Points are removed for every violation.
Those who lose all 12 points in a year will be banned from prescribing drugs for a month and ordered to take part in training and exams to improve their performance, the hospital said in a statement.
So far, 274 doctors have been docked points since the policy was launched on Jan 1, including one who has lost eight, according to Li Wenzhou, vice-president of the hospital.
"The irregularities represent only a tiny proportion of all prescriptions issued, considering the number of outpatient prescriptions amounted to 1 million between January and May," he said.
The regulation was introduced to encourage doctors to prescribe drugs rationally and help reduce costs for patients, the statement said, adding that Central Hospital is the first public hospital in Hubei to introduce such a system.
Penalties involving improper drug prescriptions vary according to the individual case. For example, prescribing excessive drugs for outpatients without giving reasons will result in a deduction of one point. Doctors who prescribe the wrong drugs, resulting in serious consequences for patients, automatically lose 12 points.
With the help of the new system, incorrect prescriptions and faulty advice from doctors have been reduced, said Yang Guoliang, another vice-president.
Drug sales accounted for 28 percent of the hospital's total income in May compared with 37 percent in January, Yang said.
Li Kai, a doctor specializing in liver and gallbladder surgeries at Central Hospital, said, "Following the new regulation, we have attached more importance to giving the right prescriptions."
Li said the hospital should also take measures to reward doctors－not just punish them－to encourage better performance.