Bypassing primary care facilities: health-seeking behavior of middle age and older adults in China

Changle Li, Zhuo Chen, M. Mahmud Khan

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: With economic development, aging of the population, improved insurance coverage, and the absence of a formal referral system, bypassing primary healthcare facilities appear to have become more common. Chinese patients tend to visit the secondary or tertiary healthcare facilities directly leading to overcrowding at the higher-level facilities. This study attempts to analyze the factors associated with bypassing primary care facilities among patients of age 45 years or older in China. Methods: Random effects logistic models were used to examine bypassing of primary health facilities among rural-urban patients. Data from 2011 to 2015 waves of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study were used. Results: Two in five older patients in China bypass primary health centers (PHC) to access care from higher-tier facilities. Urban patients were nearly twice as likely as rural patients to bypass PHC. Regardless of rural-urban residence, our analysis found that a longer travel time to primary facilities compared to higher-tier facilities increases the likelihood of bypassing. Patients with higher educational attainment were more likely to bypass PHCs. In rural areas, patients who reported their health as poor or those who experienced a recent hospitalization had a higher probability of bypassing PHC. In urban areas, older adults (age 65 years or older) were more likely to bypass PHC than the younger group. Patients with chronic conditions like diabetes also had a higher probability of bypassing. Conclusions: The findings indicate the importance of strengthening the PHCs in China to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the health system. Significantly lower out-of-pocket costs at the PHC compared to costs at the higher tiers had little or no impact on increasing the likelihood of utilizing the PHCs. Improving service quality, providing comprehensive person-centered care, focusing on family health care needs, and providing critical preventive services will help increase utilization of PHCs as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of the health system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number895
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Bypassing
  • China
  • Health-seeking behavior
  • Older adults
  • Primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


Dive into the research topics of 'Bypassing primary care facilities: health-seeking behavior of middle age and older adults in China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this