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Open Access Research article

Outpatient prescription practices in rural township health centers in Sichuan Province, China

Qian Jiang1, Bo Nancy Yu2, Guiying Ying3, Jiaqiang Liao1, Huaping Gan3, James Blanchard2 and Juying Zhang1*

Author Affiliations

1 West China School of Public Health, Sichuan University, No.17 Section 3 South Renmin Road, Chengdu, Sichuan, China

2 Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

3 Sichuan Health Information Center, Chengdu, Sichuan, China

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:324  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-324

Published: 18 September 2012

Abstract

Background

Sichuan Province is an agricultural and economically developing province in western China. To understand practices of prescribing medications for outpatients in rural township health centers is important for the development of the rural medical and health services in this province and western China.

Methods

This is an observational study based on data from the 4th National Health Services Survey of China. A total of 3,059 prescriptions from 30 township health centers in Sichuan Province were collected and analyzed. Seven indicators were employed in the analyses to characterize the prescription practices. They are disease distribution, average cost per encounter, number of medications per encounter, percentage of encounters with antibiotics, percentage of encounters with glucocorticoids, percentage of encounters with combined glucocorticoids and antibiotics, and percentage of encounters with injections.

Results

The average medication cost per encounter was 16.30 Yuan ($2.59). About 60% of the prescriptions contained Chinese patent medicine (CPM), and almost all prescriptions (98.07%) contained western medicine. 85.18% of the prescriptions contained antibiotics, of which, 24.98% contained two or more types of antibiotics; the percentage of prescriptions with glucocorticoids was 19.99%; the percentage of prescriptions with both glucocorticoids and antibiotics was 16.67%; 51.40% of the prescriptions included injections, of which, 39.90% included two or more injections.

Conclusions

The findings from this study demonstrated irrational medication uses of antibiotics, glucocorticoids and injections prescribed for outpatients in the rural township health centers in Sichuan Province. The reasons for irrational medication uses are not only solely due to the pursuit of maximizing benefits in the township health centers, but also more likely attributable to the lack of medical knowledge of rational medication uses among rural doctors and the lack of medical devices for disease diagnosis in those township health centers. The policy implication from this study is to enhance professional training in rational medication uses for rural doctors, improve hardware facilities for township health centers, promote health education to rural residents and establish a public reporting system to monitor prescription practices in rural township health centers, etc.