Shenzhen has launched a new medical insurance service to protect doctors from malpractice payouts.
The so-called doctor liability insurance targets physicians who have to take on a certain share of responsibility in medical mishaps by paying part of the compensation.
Doctors can buy the insurance voluntarily, and the service is applicable to medical accidents across the Chinese mainland.
Wang Tianxing, head of the Shenzhen Medical Doctor Association, said the insurance can help alleviate the financial burden of doctors and promote the development of the medical service industry.
The money that doctors pay for medical mishaps ranges from several thousand yuan to tens of thousands of yuan and could reach up to 100,000 yuan (,930) in some cases. That places major economic pressure on doctors, Wang said.
To avoid the risks, doctors are normally reluctant to try new technologies or therapies, so the insurance enables them to put more focus on technological improvement, Wang said.
It can also play a role in easing tensions between doctors and patients, he added.
"Disputes normally occur when the two parties cannot reach agreement on compensation. Now, medical accidents will be dealt with by a third-party organization. It's like a buffer zone being set up between the two sides," Wang said.
The insurance service is provided jointly by five insurance companies, including Ping An Insurance and China Pacific Life Insurance. The companies will share the profits as well as the cost of the insurance.
The total amount insured each year ranges from 300,000 yuan to 4 million yuan. The premium for doctors varies based on department and position.
Obstetrics, anesthesiology and plastic surgery are believed to have the highest risk in medical treatment, so premiums for doctors in those fields are higher than their counterparts in traditional Chinese medicine, nutrition or rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, premiums for directors of a department are also higher than those at lower levels because normally the operations they perform are more difficult and therefore come with higher risks.
Doctors' liability insurance is not a new thing in China, but it has never been fully implemented, said Wang Hui, general manager of Jiang Tai Insurance Brokers.
"Laws and regulations in other parts of the country did not differentiate the responsibility of medical institutions from that of doctors. Therefore, insurers were not able to judge doctors' share of liability, not to mention settlement claims," he said.
The regulation regarding medical services in Shenzhen, which took effect at the beginning of last year, makes it clear that medical institutions and doctors should bear different levels of responsibility for medical accidents.
Zhao Jiangning, a doctor in Shenzhen who had worked in Japan for two years, said this kind of insurance is compulsory in many developed countries.
"In Japan, all doctors have to buy the insurance," he said. "Either their hospitals buy it for them or they buy it themselves. Otherwise, they would not be hired."