East Meets West: EmCare Physician’s Mission to Improve Healthcare in China

Posted on Tue, Oct 28, 2014
East Meets West: EmCare Physician’s Mission to Improve Healthcare in China

By Jennifer Whitus
Marketing Communications Manager

Improving patient care in the hospital where you actually practice can be challenging enough. Imagine trying to improve patient care a half a world away!

That’s exactly what Dr. Alice Tang and her cohorts within the Baylor/John Peter Smith healthcare system are doing through the STEEEP Global Institute.

STEEEP is an acronym that stands for “Safe, Timely, Effective, Efficient, Equitable and Patient-centered.” The institute’s goal is to improve healthcare quality around the world through quality improvement and leadership programs. Dr. Tang is the group’s chief medical officer for the People’s Republic of China.

“The STEEEP institute is basically a division of quality,” she explained. “At the local level, each hospital has its own STEEEP committee and we focus on different global issues. Dr. David Ballard is the president and founder of the global institute, and he’s trying to expand the program on a global level. And about three years ago, he began forming relationships with various hospitals in China.”

Tang became the liaison between Baylor and those Chinese facilities not only because of her medical skills and leadership abilities, but also in part because she speaks Mandarin. “Speaking Mandarin – it’s not necessary but it’s helpful,” she said. “Trust is a major issue in Chinese culture, so speaking the same language can help that trust build.” With the trust she and the institute have earned, Dr. Tang is working towards helping the Chinese meet their healthcare goals.

“It’s really interesting where China is right now,” she said. “They’re experiencing a real healthcare boom. One of the main priorities in that country is to elevate their healthcare and the quality of care they provide to their citizens. In addition, they have technology that is so new and ground-breaking, yet the reason they look to the U.S. or other countries but primarily to the U.S. is that they are looking at how to use this technology in the best way possible. Because technology is easy. You can just find the biggest technology and acquire that. However, to use it in efficient and effective ways to take care of patients, that’s a whole other story. And that’s what they’re really interested in.”

The primary difference between hospitals in the United States and China is that the majority of Chinese hospitals are public. “Dr. Ballard is really focused on this,” Tang said. “Improving healthcare in the hospitals that are public hospitals as opposed to fueling medical tourism.”

Tang’s meetings with the Chinese hospital administration teams, which generally happen over telephone or teleconference, are to narrow the gap between technology and utilization of that technology in ways that benefit patient care.

“In the U.S., we’re pretty advanced with our technology, but we have the processes in place to use that technology,” she explained. “In China, they may have that same technology but they don’t have the processes in place to fully take advantage of it.”

She uses as an example the state-of-the-art CT scan and MRI machines at some of China’s hospitals that are rarely used. “You think that’s really strange because their population is the largest in the world,” she said. “Their hospitals are so large –sometimes three times the larger hospitals in the U.S. So the reason all their sophisticated equipment may be under-used is because of that public system. These patients can’t afford the extra costs or extra care that isn’t covered in the public system, so they’ll often wait until they’re at death’s door before they go see a doctor.”

As she’s working on current challenges, Dr. Tang and her cohorts at STEEEP are looking ahead. There are plans for the group to launch wider uses of telesurgery, remote-controlled robotics and teleconsulting to try to improve care worldwide. The group is also hoping to continue to grow and connect with other nations. Tang mentioned the inclusion of India and the Middle East in the institute.

“If anyone is interested in becoming involved, I hope they’ll let me know!” she said. “We’re always looking for help and for new ideas!”

Tang’s interest in public health led her to earn a master’s degree in that field, prior to completing medical school at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a residency at the University of Maryland Baltimore and she is also an emergency ultrasound fellow. Along with being an EmCare physician who functions as associate medical director for Baylor McKinney and the ultrasound director for the Baylor system, she practices clinically at the Baylor McKinney Emergency Department and periodically holds ultrasound labs for EmCare clinicians.

“All of these projects are fun!” said Dr. Tang, discussing the many hats she wears for Baylor and EmCare. “I enjoy every project that I’m on.”


Tim Wilson
Very important emergency medical article. Thanks for sharing.
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11/13/2014 7:00:28 AM