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Public healthcare in Hong Kong is often considered restrictive and treatment is usually determined by those in authority. Private healthcare, on the other hand, seeks to consider the individual needs of patients and to offer a better informed, collaborative approach to treatment. Private medical facilities in Hong Kong are known for offering the latest advances in medical science and enforcing the highest standards in nursing.

Introduction

Hong Kong is one of the healthiest places in the world. The life expectancy is among the highest on the globe: 85.9 years for women and approximately 80 years for men. Infant mortality is also low by world standards, with the Hong Kong average rate being about 2.94 deaths per 1,000 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 high standard of living in Hong Kong, another the sheer quality of health education, healthcare and medication services.

The health education in Hong Kong is first-rate. From childhood, people are taught the importance of good health and what they can do to achieve it, by appointed government agencies. 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 visible consequence of this is the unpopularity of smoking. The fact cancer is the biggest killer in Hong Kong adds weight to the excellent quality of the region’s healthcare: cancer tends to be the biggest killer only in the the world’s most prosperous nations.

Framework

As in many countries, there is a dual healthcare system in Hong Kong. The public healthcare sector is effective, and its hard-working staff devoted to patients. However, some believe the public healthcare sector is ‘highly paternalistic,’ with patients often getting little say in their treatment.

The private sector workforce is also hard-working and devoted to patients, but tends to offer them a very different kind of experience. The Hong Kong private healthcare industry offers patients a consultative and collaborative approach to treatment, with more respect given to their personal needs.

General healthcare in Hong Kong, and the private healthcare industry especially, leads the world in state-of-the-art medical research. Not only do the people enjoy the opportunity to choose private healthcare for some or all of their health issues, they also have the confidence of knowing that, if they choose private healthcare, they will be listened to. They also know techniques at the forefront of medical knowledge will be used to help them. Hong Kong’s private medical care industry is a global example; medical expertise and top-quality nursing froster 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 7.1 million people (as of mid-2011), has just 12 private hospitals and more than 50 public hospitals. This comprises about 4,000 beds in private hospitals in Hong Kong, and about 27,000 beds in public hospitals.

Why do I need to know?

Hong Kong’s private healthcare industry is one of the world’s best examples of the benefits of privately funded hospitals. While the hospitals are run for profit, they also invest in modern medical technologies and developing the skills of practitioners. Many of those practitioners will, of course, take those skills to the public sector.

There is no doubt that, for patients who can afford them, private hospitals in Hong Kong offer tremendously good care. On offer are first-rate personal attention, and access to caring and devoted medical experts worming in an environment that 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 offer competitively priced packages for 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. Some packages cover all 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 comfort of being able to budget while knowing there will be no unpleasant financial surprises at the end of their treatment.

Regulations/reforms

The Hospital Authority (HA) is an independent body that takes responsibility for managing all public hospitals in Hong Kong. The Department of Health (DH), the government’s advisor on health matters and the regulatory authority for the healthcare sector, is also the regulatory body for private hospitals. In practical terms, 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 created 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, and issues guidelines and a Code of Professional Conduct. The MCHK also exercises disciplinary and regulatory powers within 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 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.

Since 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.

Industry Expert

Private hospitals in Hong Kong are operating in a highly competitive field where standards are high and patient expectations are also among the highest in the world. These standards are, of course, promoted by both the public and private sectors; the difference is the private sector can afford to offer patients a service that is highly personalised 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). 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, who practises at HKSH.

Dr Li says: “From the moment 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 through its patient care and medical research. The hospital meets a gold standard of medical excellence, maintains the highest levels of professionalism and makes use of cutting-edge medical technology. HKSH is devoted 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  is remarkable. HKSH also takes great pride in the high calibre of its healthcare professionals, in its adherence to the highest clinical standards and in its policy of continuous improvement.

Case study

HKSH was founded in 1922 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 revolutionary developments in healthcare: radical new drug therapies, organ transplants, and a vast increase in an understanding of the human body and how diseases can be cured and prevented.

Today, HKSH is an active pioneer in medical research and 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 reduces the amount of time needed for bacteria to be identified by around 50 percent, allowing doctors to pinpoint the precise cause of infections much faster and provide the right treatment as possible. This increases the likelihood of the patient being cured and, in life-threatening cases, surviving. HKSH’s pioneering deployment of the MALDI-TOF in the Hong Kong private healthcare sector is a dramatic example of how it spares absolutely no effort in maximising the quality of its patient care.

HKSH plans to continue its roll-out of medical technology . It aims to be the first Hong Kong hospital to introduce the proton therapy system (which uses a beam of particles to irradiate diseased tissue and is especially useful in the treatment of cancer) in 2017.

HKSH has been accredited at an international level by Britain’s Trent Accreditation since 2000 and, since 2010, by the Australian Council on Health Services.