Primary healthcare professionals' perspective on vertical integration of healthcare system in China: A qualitative study

Shasha Yuan, Fengmei Fan, Joris Van De Klundert, Jeroen Van Wijngaarden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective This study aims to present the perspectives of primary healthcare professionals (PHPs) on the impacts of implementation of vertical integration and on the underlying interprofessional collaboration process on achievement of the policy goals in China. Design A qualitative study involving individual interview and group interview was conducted between 2017 and 2018. Setting Primary healthcare institutions (PHIs) in five counties/districts of China. Participants The major participants include 12 heads of PHIs (by 12 individual interviews) and 38 PHPs (by 12 group interviews). We also interviewed other stakeholders including 24 health policy-makers (by 5 group interviews) and 5 hospital leaders (by 5 individual interviews) for triangulation analysis. Results Our study indicates that PHPs perceived vertical integration has resulted in improved professional competency, better care coordination and stronger capacity to satisfy patients' needs. The positive impacts have varied between integration types. Contributing factors for such progress are identified at administrative, organisational and service delivery levels. Other perceived effects are a loss of autonomy, increased workload and higher turnover of capable PHPs. Higher level hospitals play a dominant role in the interprofessional collaboration, particularly regarding shared goals, vision and leadership. These findings are different from the evidence in high-income countries. Incentive mechanisms and the balance of power with hospitals management are prominent design elements in the future. Conclusions Our findings are particularly valuable for other countries with a fragmented health service system and low competency of PHPs as China's experience in integrated care provides a feasible path to strengthen primary care.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere057063
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • health policy
  • primary care
  • qualitative research


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