Background: Physicians play a primary role in patients’ health. Heavy workloads can threaten the health of physicians and their patients. This study examined workload changes among physicians in Chinese health institutions from 1998–2016. Methods: This study examined data from the online China Statistical Yearbook of 1999–2017, which is released annually by the National Bureau of Statistics of the People’s Republic of China. Three relevant and available indicators were retrieved: (1) number of physicians, (2) number of patient visits and (3) number of inpatient admissions. Patient visits per physician and inpatient admissions per physician from 1998–2016 were calculated to approximate physician workloads in Chinese health institutions. Results: Between 1998 and 2016, patient visits per physician in China increased by 135% and inpatient admissions per physician rose by 184%. Both indicators demonstrate a stabilizing trend in the most recent five years, including a slight decrease (7%) in patient visits per physician since 2012. Conclusions: Physician workload increased dramatically for Chinese physicians from 1998–2016, a trend that could potentially threaten physicians’ health and the quality of patient care. The findings highlight the importance of interventions and efforts to relieve physician workloads in China.
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