The southern Chinese city of Shenzhen has launched a new medical insurance service to protect doctors from malpractice payouts, that is applicable to medical accidents across the Chinese mainland.
Doctors can buy the insurance voluntarily, reports China Daily.
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.
A 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.
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 CNY300,000 to CNY4 million. 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 ranks because normally the operations they perform are more difficult and therefore come with higher risks.
Mr 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 CNY100,000 (US$15,930) in some cases. That places major financial pressure on doctors, he said.
To avoid risks, doctors are normally reluctant to try new technologies or therapies, so the insurance enables them to put more focus on technological improvement, Mr Wang said.
It can also play a role in easing tension 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 organisation. It's like a buffer zone being set up between the two sides," he said.