Hong Kong’s healthcare system is consistently ranked among the top in the world, with high standards of medical practice and various public and private options for individuals to seek.
But with so much choice, finding a general doctor or one for your family can be a little overwhelming. So whether this is your first time looking for a doctor or not, in order to make informed decisions, we’ve put together some items you should consider.
Do I need a family doctor?
In short — ideally, yes. A family doctor, or a general practitioner, is a doctor who provides primary, continuous and comprehensive care to an individual or family. They are doctors who have received at least three years of speciality training in primary care disciplines.
In addition to treating acute and chronic illnesses, a family doctor carries out routine health screenings and counselling on lifestyle changes before illnesses develop. They provide a holistic approach by caring for their patient and considering the whole system rather than focusing on a single area only.
There are many benefits of seeing a family doctor – here are just a few:
- Having continuity of care and a long-term relationship with a doctor who knows your personal history.
- Prevent illnesses from developing through health education and preventative intervention.
- Whenever you need care from a specialist, your family doctor will be there to coordinate your care and guide you through the process.
- They’re able to have a long-term relationship with your family, which means they’ll have good knowledge of your family’s health history, giving accurate diagnoses and treatment.
Many people don't realise that they should be seeing a family doctor, simply because when individuals aren't sick, they won't visit one. However, it's important to understand that having a family doctor goes beyond treating you when you're unwell — they work with you to prevent any illnesses or disease in the first place.
Public vs private healthcare in Hong Kong
Luckily, the public healthcare system of Hong Kong is highly efficient and affordable so visiting a general practitioner is relatively easy. The government provides healthcare services to everyone for no cost or a small fee, making it highly affordable for the average individual. However, the low cost does come with some disadvantages:
- Wait times – This is a common flaw of most public healthcare systems. In Hong Kong, wait time at a public clinic could be anywhere from 4 hours to the whole day. This is due to the ever-increasing demand for public healthcare services and a shortage of medical staff.
- Little focus on holistic healthcare – The majority of public doctors are overwhelmed with the number of patients they see, usually coming to them with a pre-existing condition or problem they’ve identified themselves. As a result the doctors may only focus on the the acute problem and may not have time to discuss other issues. There is little, if any, focus on an overarching approach to improve the patient’s health in the long-term.
- General health solutions – Public healthcare doctors usually receive a large number of patients daily, meaning it’s hard for them to provide individualised, patient-centred care all the time. This can have an impact on your overall healthcare, as your doctor will not get to understand your long-term health goals.
Many of these drawbacks of the public healthcare system are why individuals consider signing up for a private clinic to see a family doctor/practitioner. Especially in Hong Kong, where the majority of family doctors are able to cater to a range of needs, such as:
- An international cohort of staff (multilingual)
- Attention to holistic health and access to preventative medicines
- Convenient locations around Hong Kong
- Providing individualised and patient-centred care plans
- Establishing long-term relationships
When considering if you will chose to go public or private, it's important to consider the above points for you and your family's needs.
What to look for when choosing a private clinic?
If you've decided down the route of a private clinics, there are also a few other things you should know as the service of private clinics does vary. Consider these points:
- Does the clinic offer all the services that my family needs?
It can be helpful if a clinic provides a full circle of services so that your family’s healthcare can be under one ecosystem.
- Does my insurance cover those services in this clinic?
The services covered by insurance depends on the individual policy. For example, some policies include dental and maternity benefits, while others do not. It's best to contact the clinics directly to arrange any insurance billing.
- Do doctors speak the language that I can comfortably communicate in?
While Hong Kong is a Chinese-speaking community, there are still a lot of highly skilled doctors who can speak several international languages. When looking for a doctor, find one that you can communicate with comfortably.
There are many private clinics in Hong Kong to chose from, you can do your research online and by asking friends or families.
How can OT&P help?
The OT&P general practice is a renowned service in Hong Kong, and over the years we have built an excellent reputation for high-quality family services. Our belief is that everyone should have access to a family doctor, and one that is convenient and never too far from you and your needs. We are dedicated to helping families achieve optimal health and wellbeing, you can visit our GP page to find out more.