Concierge Care vs Clinics Run by CORPORATES. 3 Docs Give us Tips
They do highly personalized care because they care so much about getting to know patients. And… it's not expensive.
SPONSORED BY & IN COLABORATION WITH SINOUNITED
Health *is* wealth.
“How do I know which healthcare provider is right for me? What's my deductible for today’s visit? How much will twiddling this enchanting wall puzzle cost me?”
This adorable kid’s got some good questions. There are hundreds of private healthcare providers in this city – let alone the many options that abound in the public sector – but just because private hospitals carry the same hefty price tags, does not mean that they are all cut from the same cloth.
SinoUnited, where our pint-sized protagonist is pictured, is "founded and run by physicians – physicians who are experienced in providing quality healthcare in China." That’s what three doctors across two locations of this private hospital separately told us to be a unique strength of the SinoUnited network. Another thing you notice about the doctors? They care a lot about patient education. So, we took advantage of how forthcoming they are about sharing their expert advice and insight and asked them some tips for staying healthy – and how to be a smart consumer in the field of private healthcare – here in Shanghai.
...but wealth is not health.
This is Dr. Stephen Misch. When asked about what kinds of ailments he most frequently sees in his patients, he talked about what he calls "Shanghai Syndrome": People who relocate to Shanghai, often for high-paid positions, and who have loads of money and work perks – but no work-life balance. The result is often a cocktail of health issues from high blood pressure, anxiety and insomnia to back pain, skin problems and even pre-diabetes. What’s particularly alarming to Dr. Misch is that in recent years, he’s been seeing this level of stress and anxiety-induced ailments among young people, such as high school kids studying for the gaokao.
So, what’s the treatment? At this point, Dr. Misch speaks in all caps. PREVENTION! Holistic healthcare, and getting to understand the roots of the health problems – depression? Marriage trouble? “It's not just about running tests and finding physical problems to diagnose. That kind of ‘end-stage illness’ approach doesn't give the full picture of what a patient is going through. There really is no need to overscreen and do excessive testing,” he said.
“My job is to be the translator for the patient’s body, because their body is trying to tell them something,” said Dr. Misch. "Overall lifestyle is key – good nutrition, sleep hygiene and exercise, especially among kids and young adults. Nobody likes to hear this, but fried foods and high-sugar diets are just not good for the body. An anti-inflammatory diet, however, can help with mood and fatigue.”
In general, his sage advice for everyone (age 18+) is: "Drink less alcohol. Consume more potassium – it also helps with blood pressure.” Dr. Misch has clearly got a passion for promoting healthy lifestyles: He has photos up in his office of himself surfing and doing yoga, and he’s got scientific studies saved in computer, armed and at the ready, in case you’re curious about “farmacology” (the concept of “food as medicine”), the many benefits of saunas, or how squat toilets are indeed better for pooping than Western-style toilets.
Eleme makes it too easy for half a dozen KFC egg tarts to land in your stationary lap. Fight the urge, follow the doctor's orders, and you too can be doing a perfect crow pose well into your 60's.
A cultural chameleon lives among us...
This is Dr. Carenia Kuan. Her story’s a fascinating one. Dr. Kuan was born in Taiwan and grew up in Libya, then Malta, and finally, in upstate New York within a largely Orthodox Jewish community. She went to medical school in Taipei, then obtained another degree in NYC. "I'm very open to different cultures and values, so that presets me for international medicine,” she said.
How does that translate to being a pediatric specialist here in Shanghai?
"Shanghai is extra challenging. You're seeing such a diverse group, and parents who come in tend to have a lot of research done and with their own cultural contexts that you should come to understand. My ideal pediatric practice concepts are based on a combination of the American Academy of pediatrics concept of ‘Comprehensive Care’ and ‘Continuity of Care,’ and what is needed based on the specific and defined person or family in front of me.”
“If you disregard community, family structure, cultural background, socio-economic status – well, without considerations over these factors, you would be providing traditional medical care that is incomplete and outdated. That is not high-caliber service. We're not just providing institutional care – we get to know the family. Over the years, my patients and I form a true bond as they grow. You have a primary care physician who knows you well over the years: body, mind, and soul,” said Dr. Kuan.
Parents, medical, and community: the ultimate tripod of children's health
As for Dr. Kuan’s prevailing philosophy towards healthcare, it’s pretty well aligned with that of the hospital and her colleagues like Dr. Misch. “Medicine is not just about treatment – it is about prevention, and teamwork. Beyond providing sick care, the next level is to promote the concept of preventative care. In pediatrics, my patients – babies and young children – cannot communicate their problems to us. So, we go a few steps beyond and try to be as close-knit as possible with parents and their school community to address medical issues, including psychological and mental health issues.”
"Parents nowadays, especially first-time parents, are quite anxious about development problems, behavior problems, ‘what is normal, what is not.’ You must learn to take care of the individual within their own context and not to label them – there's a lot of family dynamics to understand and consider since cultural background and values factor in greatly."
She told us some anecdotes of families that represent a melting pot of cultures within their own family unit – for instance, German and Chinese American parents with Shanghainese parents/in-laws, and how she is “learning everyday” in how to best navigate being a healthcare provider within such a culturally diverse environment.
Public vs. private healthcare
We then traveled from SinoUnited’s New Bund branch to its Huangpu Riverside Clinic near Lupu Bridge, where we met Dr. Haijuan Huang.
Dr. Huang began her medical career at Shanghai’s state-run hospitals. She practices general pediatrics with a specialty in child neurology. Reflecting back on her earlier years in the public health sector, Dr. Huang said: "I would see over 100 patients in one day, which meant 3-5 minutes for each patient. It's very difficult for doctors to provide the level of service and care that they really want to provide at public hospitals.”
“Given the limited amount of time, it’s hard to get to know them and establish a full picture to understand their condition. You don't have time to explain their diagnosis, lab tests and treatment – much less do follow-ups to see how they're doing after the visit. In a private healthcare setting, I have 30 minutes with each patient. I can communicate with the parents, who come to trust you very much. We get to know the whole family, and I get to cover every facet of healthcare for children: skin, ear, nose, their growth, and development over the years. I came to love being a doctor again,” she said.
Patient education is her jam
“We have a Sino App which we use to keep parents updated with healthcare tips, communications with a physician assistant and our nursing staff. Parents also have me on WeChat, so we can keep in touch and do follow-ups that way. They also sometimes message me with questions and I have the opportunity to provide health education and wellness information,” said Dr. Huang.
She also shows us a resource called Up to Date that she uses to share reliable healthcare content with her patients and their parents. The articles address common health concerns such as "How do I know if my child is shorter than normal? Is there anything I can do to help my child’s growth?"
Shared Decision-Making (SDM)
It’s probably clear by now that the staff at SinoUnited care a lot about communication. Most of the doctors are bilingual, and if they aren't, then every team has a member or two who can translate.
Beyond language capability, they care about spending time with patients to explain the pros and cons of any treatment options – a concept that the medical community refers to as "Shared Decision-Making." As Dr. Misch said, when it comes to the holistic healthcare approach they take: "It's about being an active listener. Most of the patients actually tell you the reasons behind their illness without you even asking. It's important not to shut the patient down by re-rerouting the conversation.”
Monitoring AQI *does* matter
So, on to the advice we mentioned at the start of this article.
Both Dr. Huang and Dr. Kuan reported seeing many cases of respiratory issues in their young patients.
"Up to 40% of the children in Shanghai have asthma or allergic bronchitis. Kids in school are frequently coughing due to air pollution, due to constant construction all around them, closed spaces and disease prevalence, or due to individual body constitution. My advice: Have indoor air purifiers on at all times. Check the AQI when you go outside and choose to stay indoors when it's high."
Fever is our Friend
Here’s one from Dr. Misch: "Myths about fever are really common, and sometimes even doctors contribute to fever-phobia, but I say: Fever is your friend. Fever helps our immune system function. Viruses replicate more slowly with fever. Fevers are useful and our natural adaptations – so we shouldn't be so quick to knock the fever down [with medications].
People will ask me, what about brain damage? There is no evidence that fever causes brain damage. So, I tell patients that it's good to let fever run its course. 90% of them go away within three days.”
Physician-founded and run
Now we’re going to circle back to that all-important aspect that sits at the heart of the SinoUnited network. As Dr. Huang pointed out: "I have experience working in both public hospitals and other private healthcare providers. Public hospitals are run with a high focus on supervision and following protocol. Private healthcare here tends to be more coporate-style, quite top-down.”
“Here [at SinoUnited], it’s a physician-driven system. I can speak up as a doctor about my perspective, and I feel listened to. The decisions made from the upper level are by doctors, who know what patients want and need. I believe that when doctors are given a level of autonomy, we have a very closely knit core team (nurse, PA, doctor, specialist) – and importantly, happier patients."
Scan the QR code below to speak directly with SinoUnited's English-speaking staff. Even if you aren't sick now, you can add them in your contacts for quick access in case an emergency ever does come up (knock on wood).