Most Hong Kong respondents are not confident about their health status, with worries about cancer (79%), stroke (67%), heart attack (46%), brain disease (44%) and diabetes (37%), but very few (37%) undertake regular preventive and early diagnostic tests for these diseases. There is widespread dissatisfaction with health system in Hong Kong, most people want shorter waiting times for specialist consultations and treatment in the public healthcare system (37%) and lower prices in the private sector (22%). Most Hong Kong respondents (51%) choose medical specialists recommended by friends and family, but are not fully comfortable asking questions or raising doubts with the specialist they see.
HONG KONG, CHINA - Media OutReach - 25 April 2017 - Nearly all Hong Kong people are worried about their health, with only 20% seeing themselves as "very healthy", a new study has found. The majority of those interviewed in the Medix Medical Monitor study also admitted to being reluctant to question specialists and to relying on friends and family for advice on where to seek a medical investigation or treatment.
Ms. Sigal Atzmon, President (LEFT), and Professor David Zeltser, Global Medical Director (RIGHT) from Medix Medical Services Group attended the media briefing to share key survey resuls from Medix Medical Monitor Research.
Around half of respondents judged their health as "below average" or "just-above average". Cancer is the most worried about disease (79%), followed by stroke (67%), heart attack (46%), illnesses related to the brain (44%) and diabetes (37%). Even so, 63% of respondents do not subject themselves to regular testing to detect and prevent the diseases they worry about. Furthermore, only 37% think the preventive information provided by general practitioners (GPs) is sufficient.
Ms. Sigal Atzmon, President of Medix Group said, "Health awareness and early diagnosis are key to the prevention and/or treatment of critical illnesses. According to the World Health Organization, more than 36 million people die annually from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes. In Hong Kong, cancer is the top killer, accounting for 30% of deaths in 2014, although other major preventable NCDs also take a heavy toll. Cardiovascular disease accounts for 21.2% of deaths in Hong Kong and chronic lower respiratory disease 3.8% ."
These diseases are closely linked to common risk factors, namely tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol, and are thus preventable, Ms. Atzmon explained.
"The good news is that we can all take steps to prevent the non-communicable diseases that we worry about. The Hong Kong government is leading the way with initiatives that raise awareness and encourage people to reduce their salt and sugar intake and stop smoking. Simple lifestyle changes and regular testing to allow early diagnosis of disease can greatly reduce health risks and improve peace of mind for everyone." she continued.
Call for timeliness and transparency
There is widespread dissatisfaction with the health system in Hong Kong. Millennials in particular want to see improvements, with 47% of them being "quite unsatisfied" or "very unsatisfied" with the public health system, along with 37% of the older working generation. Overall, only 31% of the respondents said they are satisfied with public healthcare in Hong Kong. Shorter waiting time for specialist consultations and treatments was the top area of concern, identified by 37% of the respondents, 23% would like to see further strengthening and expanding of the public medical system, with 6% also wanting to be able to choose their treating doctor in the public system.
The private health system did not fare much better. Just over half (51%) of respondents are satisfied with the private health system in Hong Kong, although 14% are "quite unsatisfied" or "very unsatisfied". Respondents urged the private medical sector to lower costs (22%) and improve overall transparency (12%).
"Hong Kong's public healthcare system is on par with the best in the world. Public hospitals here adhere to international clinical guidelines and medical standards, with excellent results and the government subsidizing 95% of all medical costs," Ms. Atzmon continued. "However, we do see room for improvement in enhancing the transparency of the health system, especially in the private sector, where information about clinical outcomes, adverse events and treatment costs is lacking. We support the Hospital Authority and Department of Health to improve supervision and reporting for hospitals in Hong Kong for the well being of patients."
Reliance on limited sources of information and reluctance to challenge expert opinion
When people in Hong Kong choose a specialist consultant, most do not take great effort to actively research their options or seek independent advice. About half of the respondents (51%) in the study admitted to choosing a specialist based on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, with 44% seeking advice from their GPs. Women were more reliant on their social circle for advice (57%) while only 42% of male respondents said the same. Younger generation is less likely to seek recommendation from GPs with only 33% of the millennials (aged 26-35) said they would do so as compared with 51% of the older respondents (aged 36-50).
In general, online research is becoming more prevalent, with 28% of respondents looking for recommendations online. Younger people are more willing to use online sources of information, with 36% of the millennials engaging in online searches, compared to 23% aged 36-50. This is in contrast to the situation overseas. In the US, nearly 84% of patients already consult and contribute to website reviews of physicians and hospitals. In China, the Guahao (WeDoctor) platform connects providers to patients and is linked to 2,400 major hospitals in 23 provinces with over 150 million registered users alongside to 260,000 medical experts. "We expect Hong Kong people to follow this trend", says Ms. Atzmon.
The Medix Medical Monitor study reveals that when consulting with a Specialist, about a quarter of respondents are not fully confident in the diagnosis and the treatment offered. Only half of the respondents feel comfortable asking their doctors any questions although women (58%) seem to be better placed in posing questions than men (50%). On the other hand, a vast majority (81%) of all respondents are interested in seeking a second opinion and medical case management services (76%).
"It is worrying that only half of the respondents in our study are comfortable with directly asking questions or raising doubts on health issues with their medical specialist. This could have important implications for the quality and effectiveness of the care they receive, and the outcome for them and their family," said Ms. Atzmon. "We believe that Hong Kong could improve medical outcomes and help contain healthcare costs by implementing strategies to raise patients' health literacy and health awareness in the long-term. On a personal level, patients can benefit from seeking independent advice to help them make informed decisions throughout the investigation, diagnosis and treatment of serious medical conditions. While such services are well-established in other markets, they are relatively new to Hong Kong."
About Medix Medical Services Medix is a global healthcare management company, with headquarters in London, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv, specialising in quality global medical management. With constant scientific development expanding different treatment alternatives and medical technologies, Medix serves as a mediator between its clients and today's complex medical world. Medix provides medical management services to a global customer base of over 1.8 million people, leveraging 300 in-house specialists, a global quality-accredited specialist network of over 3,000 leading specialists and 1,500 medical centres, and a dedicated global research department. Medix provides patients with access to quality healthcare in over 90 countries, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in over 20 languages, including Cantonese and Mandarin.
Medix also works with and supports government-related entities, health insurers and large corporations in developing their healthcare strategies, clinical strategies and healthcare reforms. Believing that accessibility and sustainability of quality medical care are fundamental social rights, Medix is very passionate about these issues and is fully dedicated to these activities.
Furthermore, Medix funds various public medical research and clinical programs to support patients with rare and complex medical conditions. Medix also offers pro bono services to people in need. In view of the next digital health disruption, Medix has launched a corporate venture capital fund, Medix Ventures. With a strong focus on Asia Pacific, it aims to drive innovation and take an active part in expanding opportunities within the digital health space. All Medix activities work around the sole purpose of providing accessibility and implementation of quality medical care to people around the world. For more information about Medix, please visit www.medix-global.com
About Medix Medical Monitor Research
The Medix Medical Monitor Research was structured to investigate Hong Kong consumers' awareness and behaviour towards medical procedures, so to understand their satisfaction levels and expectations of the private and public health systems in Hong Kong. The research data was collected through computer-assisted web interviews of 532 people, who are health insurance policy holders aged 26 to 50 with average or above personal income. The quotas on gender, age, personal income and geographical coverage applied reflect the representation of the target consumers in Hong Kong. The research was conducted between January and February 2017 by Kantar Millward Brown, a leading multinational market research firm.
 Source: The Centre for Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/rc/sci_events/files/IS_on_reduction_of_salt_and_sugar/Burden_of_NCD_for_head_to_Head.pdf