Last updated on August 26, 2021.
The healthcare system in Hong Kong is unique in that it has high-quality private and public healthcare tracks. Together these serve roughly 7.4 million people. Here are 8 things to know about the healthcare system in Hong Kong.
1. The Hong Kong healthcare system has excellent reputation. It is known for its quality and efficiency, and the healthy population it serves.
- Life expectancy is one of the highest in the world. According to the Department of Health in Hong Kong, life expectancy has reached 82.2 years for males and 88.1 years for females in 2019.
- Infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate are among the lowest in the world.
- With 43 public hospitals and 13 private hospitals in a densely populated city, healthcare is easily accessible (doctor home-visits are not common).
2. Hong Kong healthcare is a dual-track system.
- A public system that provides over 90% of all in-patient bed-days and 30% outpatient service according to the Department of Health in Hong Kong.
- A very expensive private system that takes on 70% of primary care services and only 10% of in-patient service according to the Department of Health in Hong Kong.
3. The healthcare system in Hong Kong faces 4 major challenges and growing problems.
- An overstretched, overcrowded public sector.
- Shortage of doctors and other health professionals.
- Aging population with growing demand and low supply (according to the Chinese University of Hong Kong, roughly 30% of the population will be over 65 in 2033).
- Lack of public-private partnerships. Closer involvement from the private sector could help alleviate a number of issues
4.The Hong Kong population faces very long wait times in the public sector.
In the year 2019-2020, patients coming for non-urgent cases at A&E departments of Hong Kong public hospitals had to wait 134 minutes on average. Waiting time for stable new case booking at specialist out-patient clinics can take up to 146 weeks in the Kowloon East Hospital Cluster. For certain procedures, the waiting time can be as long as :
5. Private healthcare in Hong Kong is the 2nd most expensive in the world after the US.
It is not standardized, and nothing limits what health providers can charge. Prices vary greatly depending on doctors’ reputation and location, for instance:
- A visit to a general practitioner can roughly range from HKD 250 to HKD 1,000.
- The cost of a childbirth delivery can vary between HKD 100,000 and HKD 450,000 in case of complications.
- Cancer treatment costs can exceed HKD 1 or 1.5 million, as seen in a number of recent cases.
Note: Hong Kong has excellent public hospitals for cancer treatments such as Queen Mary Hospital, however due to the number of demands, patients even in stage 3 or 4 may need to wait. Immediate admission cannot be guaranteed 100%.
6. Health insurance in Hong Kong isn’t cheap nor easy to understand.
- To afford private sector health expenses in Hong Kong, it is recommended to have private medical insurance through work or independently. Unlike countries like Switzerland or the United States, there is no obligation to have insurance in Hong Kong.
- The cost of private health insurance reflects the cost of private health in HK as well as medical inflation, which averages 8-10% per year, according to Mercer Marsh Benefits’ 2019 “Medical Trends Around the World” survey.
7. There are ways to reduce your costs at a private hospital.
- If you are hospitalized in a private hospital in Hong Kong, the best way to reduce your costs is to choose the least expensive room. In Hong Kong, there is a correlation between the cost of room and doctor medical fees.
- In other words, the more expensive the room, the higher the medical fees (even if the exact same service is provided). Doctor fees are therefore based on the room type: private room, semi-private room or a multi-room.
8. In Hong Kong, Chinese Medicine Practitioner is a regulated profession.
- Although Western medicine dominates in Hong Kong, the population also uses traditional Chinese medicine.
- It is a regulated medical profession since 1999 and the development of traditional Chinese medicine has been set as a priority by Carrie Lam’s government in 2019.
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Is healthcare free in Hong Kong?
No. For HKID holders, costs in the public healthcare are nearly free and largely affordable. Medical charges in the private sector, however, vary greatly — Hong Kong has the world’s second most expensive private healthcare after the US.
How much does it cost to see a doctor in Hong Kong?
Fees for public healthcare services are very low in Hong Kong: it costs HK$50 for a general outpatient visit and HK$135 for a first visit at a specialist clinic. On the other hand, charges vary widely in the private sector.
What are the challenges of Hong Kong healthcare system?
A major challenge for Hong Kong’s healthcare system is the shortage of doctors faced with an increasing medical demand from the aging population. As a result, the public sector is overstretched and overcrowded.