Chinese doctors’ working situation during COVID-19 outbreak

Results of our nationwide survey of more than 20,000 Chinese doctors: which departments are under pressure, and who has a reduced load.
14 April 2020
doctor chinese
Adele Li

Senior commercial director, Chinese mainland

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To measure the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on Chinese doctors, Kantar and Good Doctor (a healthcare professional panel in China) jointly launched a nationwide survey among hospital doctors to understand their working situation.

The key findings cover:

  • Doctors’ involvement in COVID-19 battle, which departments were under pressure;
  • What did they actually do?
  • Higher and reduced workload for doctors.

Time frame of the report

The survey was live from Feb 11 till Feb 27. February 11 was when the number of China’s confirmed patients approached its peak and the whole medical system had been dealing with COVID-19 for 24 days (from Jan 20 till Feb 11).

Doctors’ involvement in the COVID-19 battle, and departments under pressure

Altogether, 20,910 doctors from 5,774 hospitals in 27 provinces of China participated in the survey, including 346 doctors from 182 hospitals in the epicenter, Hubei Province.

According to respondents, 97% of hospitals joined forces to contain COVID-19. More than half of them (51%) opened “fever clinics” to receive patients with fever symptoms and/or were “designated hospitals” to treat COVID-19 patients.

Out of the 43 departments represented in the survey’s respondents, 24 were most under pressure for COVID-19 related work/treatment; the top five being infectious disease (21% are from this department), respiratory (21%), ICU (14%), outpatient (included but not limited to fever clinics) (11%) and emergency department (11%).

The 24 are:

24 Departments Under Pressure





Infectious Disease





Traditional Medicine



Public Health






Preventive Medicine

Infectious Disease Management

Obstetrics and Gynaecology




* Red ones are under heaviest pressure


In terms of the percentage of doctors involved in the COVID-19 work, the top five departments were: infectious disease (84%), followed by internal medicine (66%), respiratory (63%), gastroenterology (53%) and geriatric medicine (46%).

What did they actually do?

72% of surveyed doctors were directly involved in the COVID-19 work. Their work fell into three categories:

  1. 34% on frontline - screening, diagnosing, treating and managing suspected and confirmed patients;
  2. 32% supporting frontline doctors/departments’ work on patient management, education;
  3. 45% disinfect their own clinics/departments

Patient load for doctors

Between Jan 23 and March 1, China sent 344 medical teams (42,322 healthcare professionals, including 11,416 doctors and 28,679 nurses) from 27 provinces of China to Hubei Province. Among them, 38,478 were in Wuhan.

To cope with the moving of medical staff resources to Hubei, as well as to discourage people to gather at hospitals, the government asked all hospitals to heavily reduce (sometimes by as much as half) the available doctors receiving patients in all departments, except emergency rooms, as well as to cancel all non-life-saving operations.

The decision to stop almost all inter-city public transportation has also cut the number of out-of-town patients to big hospitals in major cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing, to zero. Local patients also cancelled non-essential trips to hospital to minimise their chances of being infected.

As a result, 86% of surveyed doctors reported a decrease in the number of outpatients, but 47% of infectious disease doctors reported a significant increase in their patient load.

Among all surveyed doctors, 65% reported a decrease of workload, even though some of them need to do remote medical consulting through digital platforms, such as hospital’s app, WeChat account or third-party professional health/medical digital platforms/apps.

Change of workload during outbreak

Mention of increase


Mention of no change


Mention of decrease


The 24% of doctors who said they had a higher workload came mostly from infectious disease, internal medicine, surgery, general practice (53% mentioned increase) and wellness prevention (55% mentioned increase). Others with a higher workload include emergency rooms and psychological doctors.

The increased workload came from “more prevention measures/actions to protect against virus” (51%), “more meetings about the outbreak” (37%) and “online consulting” (25%).

Moreover, 12% of doctors mentioned an extra workload coming from epidemic screening, door-to-door screening, population-at-risk management, PCR testing, psychological consulting for fellow medical workers, work on behalf of colleagues who’ve gone to Hubei, and the lower efficiency of working remotely, such as “paediatric physical examination or new-born visits cannot proceed because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and in need of audio/video chats which take a much longer time.”

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