Whereas public healthcare in Hong Kong is often considered restrictive and treatment is most commonly determined solely by those in authority, private healthcare seeks more to consider the individual needs of patients and to offer a better informed, collaborative approach to patient treatment. These private medical facilities in Hong Kong are renowned for ardently pursuing recent advances in medical science and for providing the very highest standards in nursing care.
Hong Kong is statistically one of the healthiest places in the world. The life expectancy of people living in Hong Kong is among the highest on the globe, approximately 85.9 years for women and approximately 80 years for men. Infant mortality is also particularly low by world standards, with the Hong Kong average rate being about 2.94 per thousand live births in a given year.
Hong Kong’s high life expectancy and low infant mortality are the result of several key factors. One is the exceptionally high standard of living in Hong Kong. Yet the sheer quality of health education, healthcare and medication services in Hong Kong are also vital factors in explaining why on average the people tend to stay healthier longer and live longer.
The health education in Hong Kong is first-rate. The importance of good health and what one can do to achieve it is taught to the population from childhood onwards by appointed agencies of the Hong Kong government. Hong Kong people tend to be enterprising and pro-active in their approach to life, and they usually enjoy taking responsibility for their own health. One highly visible consequence of this in Hong Kong today is the unpopularity of smoking. The very fact that cancer is the biggest killer in Hong Kong adds anecdotal weight to the excellent quality of the healthcare: cancer tends to be the biggest killer only in the most prosperous of the world’s nations.
As in many other countries, there is a dual healthcare system in Hong Kong. The public healthcare sector is highly effective, extremely devoted to patients and very hard-working. However, some believe the public healthcare sector to be ‘highly paternalistic,’ with patients often getting little say in their treatment.
The private sector workforce is also extremely devoted to patients and very hard-working, but in contrast to the public sector tends to offer patients a very different kind of experience. The Hong Kong private healthcare industry offers patients a treatment based around a more consultative and collaborative approach to treatment with more respect for their own personal needs.
General healthcare in Hong Kong, and the private healthcare industry especially is one of the world’s leaders in state-of-the-art medical research. Not only, therefore, do the people enjoy the opportunity to choose private healthcare for some or all of their health issues, but they have the confidence of knowing that if they choose private healthcare they will be listened to carefully. They also know that medical techniques at the forefront of global medical knowledge are used to help them.
Hong Kong’s private medical care industry is a shining example not only in Asia but globally. The professional and skilled medical expertise applies medical science and quality nursing to patient care to promote health, happiness and longevity.
Overall, China has more than 8,800 private hospitals (as of March 2012) and more than 14,000 public hospitals; Hong Kong, with just 7.1 million people (as of mid-2011) has just 12 private hospitals and more than 50 public hospitals. This comprises a total of about 4,000 beds in private hospitals in Hong Kong, and about 27,000 beds in public hospitals.
Hong Kong’s private healthcare industry is one of the world’s best examples of the benefits of privately funded hospitals that are certainly run to make a profit. However, they also make use of the benefits that private funding offers in terms of investing not only in modern medical technologies, but also in the development of the skills of the practitioners who work in the private sector. Many of these, of course, as in most other countries that have a dual healthcare system, also bring their skills to the public sector.
There is no doubt at all that for patients who can afford them, private hospitals in Hong Kong offer tremendously good patient care. On offer is also a first-rate quality of personal attention, access to caring and devoted medical experts working in an environment which is usually relatively stress-free.
While it is true that private healthcare in Hong Kong can be expensive, it is important to bear in mind that many private hospitals in Hong Kong do in fact offer very competitively priced packages of certain services. For example, some private hospitals in Hong Kong offer a package of services for a particular medical procedure and the medical care and services attached to it. Alternatively, some packages embrace all the care for a particular health condition. Other examples include maternity packages, and surgical operation packages. The usual procedure is for packages to be agreed in advance – this allows complete price transparency and offers patients the psychological comfort of being able to budget in a relaxed way while knowing that there will be no unpleasant financial surprises at the end of their treatment.
In Hong Kong the Hospital Authority (HA) is an independent body that takes responsibility for managing all public hospitals. The Department of Health (DH), the government’s adviser on health matters and regulatory authority for the healthcare sector, is also the regulatory body for private hospitals. In practical terms, the allocation of responsibilities between the DH and HA is that the DH takes care of public health functions such as promoting health and preventing disease while the HA provides public hospital and clinic services, as well as carrying out its regulatory role in the private sector.
Another important regulatory body for the Hong Kong healthcare sector is the Medical Council of Hong Kong (MCHK). It was founded in order to establish top quality in the medical profession. In particular, the MCHK aims to protect patients, foster ethical conduct, and develop and maintain the highest professional standards. Under the Ordinance, Cap 161, Law of Hong Kong, the MCHK maintains a register of eligible medical practitioners, administers the Licensing Examination, issues guidelines and a Code of Professional Conduct. The MCHK also exercises disciplinary and regulatory powers for the Hong Kong medical profession.
The introduction in recent years of vigorous regulations to curb smoking in public places and – it could be argued – generally to discourage smoking, are a powerful example of how the Hong Kong government is willing to intervene in the daily life of its citizens to improve their health.
With effect from January 1 2007, statutory no-smoking areas have been extended to cover the indoor areas of all restaurant premises, indoor workplaces, public indoor places, and some public outdoor places in accordance with the amended Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Cap 371). No person shall smoke or carry a lighted cigarette, cigar, or pipe in no-smoking areas.
All private hospitals in Hong Kong are operating in a highly competitive field where standards are extremely high and where patient expectations are also among the highest in the world due to the traditionally high importance that the people place on healthcare. These standards are of course promoted by the public sector as well as by the private sector; the difference is that the private sector can afford to offer patients a service that is highly personal and collaborative rather than the more paternalistic service offered in the private sector.
One of the leading private hospitals in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Sanatorium Hospital (HKSH). Perhaps there is no better way of introducing its patient care philosophy and general approach than by quoting Dr Walton Li, one of the world’s leading ophthalmologists and who practises at HKSH.
Dr Li says: “From the moment when patients enter our hospital, our staff will extend them a welcoming hand. Patients at HKSH are treated with courtesy and warmth and will be looked after with great efficiency, real effectiveness and with the most genuine of concerns for their welfare.”
Dr Walton Li’s comments harmonise with HKSH’s motto, ‘Quality in Service, Excellence in Care’. HKSH puts this motto into practice every day in its work in patient care and in medical research. The hospital sets itself, and adheres to, a gold standard of medical excellence, the highest qualities of professionalism and of cutting-edge medical technology. This gold standard is all about HKSH’s complete and dedicated devotion to maximising, at every level, the quality of the patient experience.
Even by the high standards of private hospitals in Hong Kong, the calibre of personalised healthcare at HKSH of which Dr Walton Li speaks here is remarkable. HKSH also takes great pride in the high calibre of its healthcare professionals, in its adherence to the very highest clinical standards and in its policy of continuous improvement.
HKSH traces its origins back to 1922 – just a year after Dr Frederick Banting first identified and isolated pancreatic insulin and in doing so, provided the first effective treatment for diabetes.
HKSH was founded by some of China’s most prominent medical professionals. Back then it had only 28 beds; today it has about 500. In the nine decades since its foundation, HKSH has seen development in medical care that can only be described as revolutionary. Radical new drug therapies, organ transplants, and a vast increase in an understanding of the human body and how disease can be cured and prevented have all happened during the history of HKSH.
Today, HKSH not only keeps thoroughly abreast of the very latest developments in medical research and in translating practical applications of these developments into specific treatments for patients, but is an active pioneer both in medical research and in new treatments.
To take just one example, HKSH is the first private hospital in Hong Kong to introduce a Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time-of-Flight (MALDI-TOF) Mass Spectrometer for clinical services. This revolutionary medical tool facilitates a reduction of about 50 percent in the time needed for bacteria to be identified, allowing doctors to pinpoint the precise cause of bacterial infections much faster and thereby provide the right kind of treatment at the very earliest opportunity. This increases the likelihood of the patient being cured and in extreme cases, surviving. HKSH’s pioneering deployment in the Hong Kong private healthcare sector of the MALDI-TOF is a dramatic example of how HKSH spares absolutely no effort to maximise the quality of its patient care.
HKSH plans to continue a roll-out of medical technology in the future too. It aims to be the first Hong Kong hospital to introduce the proton therapy system in 2017. This uses a beam of particles to irradiate diseased tissue and is especially useful in the treatment of cancer.
HKSH has been accredited at an international level by Trent Accreditation Board in Britain since the year 2000 and, since 2010, by the Australian Council on Health Services (ACHS).