Chinese Physical Exam Results Can’t Be Trusted, Says CEO of Health Company iKang

December 7, 2018 Updated: December 7, 2018
FONT BFONT SText size

The CEO of iKang Healthcare Group exposed fraudulent practices in China’s medical screening industry at the Chinese Business Leaders Annual Meeting in Beijing on Dec. 2.

“Some physical examination centers did venipuncture, but presented a fake result without any detection … Many centers allow their nurses to take on the role of doctor,” said Zhang Ligang, CEO of Nasdaq listed iKang Healthcare Group.

“In our business field, there are real physical examinations and fake physical examinations,” Zhang said. “Many business owners choose the cheapest medical examination (which is fake) for their employees.”

Founded by Zhang in 2004, iKang provides medical examination, screening and other health services in mainland China. iKang has done physical examinations for more than six million Chinese in 2017 via its 118 examination centers in 35 cities—it has become one of the three biggest medical examination companies in China. iKang has been listed on Nasdaq since 2014.

Zhang said that many people take a blood test for cancer screening, and at a low-cost medical examination center, the nurse would only draw the blood and would not proceed to do an actual test.

“The prevalence of cancer is 0.3 percent (in China), which means the highest misdiagnosis rate of the blood test will be 0.3 percent if the medical examination center didn’t do any test on the blood samples.”

Zhang said that 0.3 percent isn’t high, and very few people will challenge the medical examination center.

“Some physical examination centers don’t take their service seriously …. After they take in clients, they will play tricks to cheat them for money,” an insider told China’s official media Xinhua Net in May.

Huang, 45, lives in Changchun city of northeastern China’s Jilin Province. In May, she saw a promotion advertisement from a local women’s hospital which offered 29 yuan ($4.21) for 10 gynecological tests. Huang went to the hospital to get tested and she was diagnosed with severe cervical erosion and other diseases. Then she paid 700 yuan for further diagnosis.

Huang refused the treatment from the hospital which would have cost 7,000 yuan. So she went to a reputable hospital to get a second opinion—it turned out that Huang was healthy.

When the keywords “physical examination promotion” is entered into a (Chinese) search engine, many attractive ads from all over China come up. And on social media, there are many stories that are similar to Huang’s experience.

Wang, 42, wasn’t so lucky.

Wang is a team leader of a state-run company in Hangzhou city of eastern China’s Zhejiang Province. He was recently diagnosed with phase IV colorectal cancer, according to Sina news.

In June, Wang got a physical exam at a medical center and received a healthy diagnosis, according to Qianjiang Evening News. Soon after, Wang began to suffer from stomach pains, and in November he went to Zhejiang People’s Hospital— a reputable hospital in Hangzhou—where he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Hu Peiying, director of the health promotion center of the hospital, said Wang’s physical examination wasn’t enough.

“Wang has a family history of colorectal cancer. He should focus more on colon and rectum physical examinations. For example, he can take a colonoscopy screening test,” Hu told  Qianjiang Evening News.

Beijing News reported on Dec. 5 that their reporters visited several medical examination centers in Beijing and Shijiazhuang city in Hebei Province and found some issues.

The doctors who did the examinations were not listed on the medical centers’ information board. Some medical examination centers work with clinics where they send their patients for further testing and treatment.

Guoyuan Securities published a research report and said that the market size of China’s medical examination industry will be 50-70 billion yuan in 2020. But the quality of physical exams is a concern.