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Chronic Conditions and Care in Hong Kong

Did you know that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the leading cause of death worldwide is chronic conditions, with an estimated 41 million deaths a year being attributed to the diseases that make up this large umbrella term? 

In this Pacific Prime Hong Kong article, we’ll take a look at an interesting habit among locals in how they receive medical care for chronic conditions that will have a lasting impact on the quality of care delivered in the city, and ultimately the health insurance premiums we pay.

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What are Chronic Conditions?

Chronic conditions are a general term used by the medical community to refer to any condition that requires ongoing or long-term care to manage, or that develops over time. These conditions come in a variety of different types with the most common including physical impairments, syndromes, disabilities, and diseases.

In most cases, the term chronic is applied to any condition that persists for three months or longer and requires regular or semi-regular care. 

It is important to note that while the vast majority of chronic conditions are considered non-communicable (not able to transmit from one human to another), there are some chronic diseases like HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis that can be transmitted from one person to another.

While a myriad of conditions can be labeled as chronic, medical experts and organizations like the WHO and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list five major types of chronic conditions:

  • Cardiovascular diseases like hypertension and heart disease that lead to heart attack and stroke
  • Cancer
  • Chronic respiratory diseases like asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Diabetes
  • Other diseases, including everything from vision impairment and mental disorders to arthritis and more

Interestingly, only in the past ten years or so, the CDC has started to refer to obesity as a chronic condition rather than a factor attributed to the cause of the above conditions. This is a somewhat profound shift for the US, and how the American healthcare system views/treats obesity, though many countries in Asia have not taken this view as of yet.

According to a report, the global chronic disease market rose from USD $6.89 billion in 2022, to over USD $8 billion in 2023. It will continue to rise, and is expected to spike to USD $17.68 billion in 2027. 

Chronic Conditions in Hong Kong

Chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, kidney diseases, dementia, blood infections, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and diabetes continue to be major health issues in Hong Kong. The ten leading causes of death in 2021 are highlighted in the Hong Kong Department of Health’s Health Facts 2022.

Hong Kong is experiencing serious problems with an aging population, and a rise in the number of chronic diseases. In 2020, chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and chronic respiratory issues accounted for approximately 55% of all deaths in Hong Kong.

Chronic conditions are a serious health problem that impact quality of life. What’s more, they affect economic productivity as the health conditions of poor management patients gradually decline, as well as place more burden on the public healthcare system due to higher care and expense.

Hong Kong has one of the world’s fastest aging populations, and the rate of aging will accelerate in the coming years. From 2021 to 2030, the average annual increase rate of the population aged 65 and up will be 4.0%.

How Do People Receive Care for Chronic Conditions in Hong Kong?

In many countries, it is common for most people to visit the same doctor whenever they get sick. Most of the time, this doctor is a local General Practitioner (GP) many refer to as a “family doctor” who over time builds up a considerable understanding of their patient’s conditions and who is responsible for the bulk of primary care people receive.

According to The Standard Hong Kong, the government will strengthen the healthcare service for chronic diseases by introducing the Primary Healthcare Blueprint. They will also create the Primary Healthcare Authority to supervise and manage community healthcare services. 

Additionally, a three-year Chronic Disease Co-Care Pilot Scheme with the idea of a “family doctor for all” will be introduced in 2024 to create a district-based, family-centered community primary health service.

People with chronic diseases can access a variety of community support services and treatment programs from Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department. There are also self-help groups where people with related health issues can connect and support one another.

The Future Impact of These Diseases on the City

As mentioned above, the prevalence of chronic diseases in Hong Kong is predicted to increase in the future. Combine this with the way many people seek care for these conditions in the city and the aging population, and you can bet there will be an impact on the healthcare industry.

When it comes to medical care, there will be an even higher demand for specialist care, especially if care-seeking habits remain unchanged. This means longer wait times for appointments, and higher costs for care – especially in the private system, which is known for being very expensive. 

The run-on from this is that as you have more people visiting specialists, you can expect to see an equal increase in the number of people being thereafter referred to a hospital for treatment. This puts an increased burden on an already overstressed system. 

As of January 2022, the wait time for stable new cases at specialist outpatient clinics ranges from 28 to 146 weeks. With more people being referred to hospitals overall, wait times will increase even further, especially during busy times. Invariably, this will result in an increase in the cost of care.

An increase in hospital visits (both in the public and private system) will also inevitably mean an increase in the number of claims submitted to insurers. Historically, when this happens, insurers will do one of two things:

  • Eliminate or reduce coverage limits for certain conditions.
  • Increase premiums to cover the increase in claims. 

Curious about the cost of health insurance in Hong Kong? Download our free Cost of Health Insurance 2021-2022 Report!

The previously mentioned SCMP article also reported that patients who had a regular doctor were less likely to be referred to a hospital for care. It would, therefore, be worth considering looking for a primary care provider. 

Regardless of whether you go to the public or private system, it would also be a good idea to consider securing a robust health insurance plan that can cover any care. Beyond that, securing a plan now can also ensure that you are covered should any chronic conditions develop in the future.

Protect your future with international health insurance

Since chronic conditions require long-term care, medical expenses can certainly add up. That is why securing an international health insurance plan is the best decision you can make for yourself and your family. Unfortunately, not all medical insurance covers chronic conditions and diseases. In fact, you might be dismayed to find that they are one of the most common insurance exclusions.

Fret not, with over 20 years of experience in the insurance brokers industry, Pacific Prime Hong Kong is more than happy to help. Get a free quote now with our online quotation tool! 

Alternatively, chat with our team of expert insurance advisors today to get the right coverage for your needs and budget.

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Natchapol Meelarbsuk is a Content Creator at Pacific Prime. With 3+ years of experience in content writing in different industries, he is a well-rounded person ready to tackle any piece. Writing is something that he enjoys and is confident in.

He’s a third culture kid who left Thailand when he was 5 before returning at 17. He attended an American school in New Delhi, India before moving to a private school in London, England. Pete has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from Bangkok University International College. In his free time, he enjoys playing video games, watching movies and watching football. He also writes movie reviews on his personal blog.
Natchapol Meelarbsuk