Do you know what to do in a medical emergency here in China? Knowing what to do, who to call and how to pay for the treatment could be the difference between life and death. We have prepared this short video to give some advice on what to do in emergency situations in China.

In a medical emergency, the first course of action should always be the same regardless of where you are – seek immediate medical assistance at the nearest appropriate medical facility and proceed with the treating doctor’s orders.

The emergency services number in China is 120. In the larger cities of Beijing and Shanghai, the emergency services operators may speak English. In all other cities, they will speak Chinese only. If you can’t speak Chinese you may need to ask a bystander to assist. Depending on the nature of the medical emergency it may be quicker to take a taxi to the hospital rather than waiting for an ambulance. Save this phone number on your mobile phone now – 120.

Once the situation has stabilized, you should arrange for someone to contact your insurance provider. Insurance companies ask to be contacted within 24-48 hours of a medical emergency.  The sooner your insurer is contacted, the sooner they can start arranging for direct payment to be made to the hospital. Your insurer will also be able to provide you with further clarity discerning your coverage.

In some instances, the treating medical facility may ask you to pay cash up-front for any treatment. This is particularly true in public hospitals or away from the larger cities of Beijing and Shanghai. It is for this reason that we would recommend that you always have an emergency fund you can dip into if you need to pay for emergency treatment. If the hospital is asking for payment up-front please do not wait to get approval from your insurance company – valuable minutes can be lost in the process. Of course, you can always submit a claim to your insurer at a later date.

If your treating hospital or doctor is suggesting an emergency medical evacuation, you must contact your insurer to arrange for pre-authorization. It’s not possible to arrange for a medical evacuation without the assistance and approval of your insurer. Medical evacuations are not an opportunity to be sent to your home country – they are to get the patient to the nearest medical facility capable of providing the required treatment if the treatment is not available where the patient is.

Part of the process of being prepared for a medical emergency is having a plan in place ahead of time. Familiarise yourself with the nearest 24-hour hospitals near your home or office. Ensure you have a folder prepared that you can grab quickly in a medical emergency with your emergency cash funds, your local hospital’s name in Chinese and contact details, together with copies of your insurance cards and passports.

In summary, here are the TOP 10 key things to remember for a medical emergency in China:

Be Prepared for a Medical Emergency

  1. Save the emergency services number to your mobile phone,
  2. Save the insurer’s 24-hour contact number to your mobile phone
  3. Prepare an emergency fund you always have access to in cash, bank card, and/or credit card (cash is best),

Take Action when in a Medical Emergency

  1. Call an ambulance and get to the nearest hospital that can treat your medical emergency
  2. Seek medical treatment immediately
  3. If you need an emergency evacuation, ask the hospital to coordinate with your insurer
  4. contact your loved ones when you can,

Once the Medical Emergency is Stabilised

  1. contact your insurer and notify them of the situation
  2. ask the insurer to coordinate the payment through direct payment settlement with the hospital
  3. Get better

One World Cover is a leading insurance consulting company and insurance broker to large employers of expats in Asia. We are one of Asia's leading employee benefits specialists and 100s of companies and schools trust One World Cover to help manage the quality health insurance coverage they provide for 1,000s of employees.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here