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Does Hong Kong have an efficient healthcare system?

As an expat in Hong Kong, it’s essential to know your way around the city when it comes to seeing doctors. Fortunately, you have plenty of options to choose from in the SAR, including public hospitals, private hospitals, or Traditional Chinese Medicine clinics.

Many expats who are moving to Hong Kong wonder whether the city has an efficient healthcare system. This article by Pacific Prime Hong Kong takes a closer look at the local healthcare system and how it ranks globally, as well as discusses what this means for expats in the city-state.

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Healthcare System Efficiency Ranked

Statista‘s 2023 Health and Health Systems ranking places Hong Kong in the 12th position worldwide based on its health index score. Moreover, as of 2023, Hong Kong’s healthcare system has been ranked as the 19th best in the world by the World Health Organization (WHO).

When looking at the top 20 of the WHO ranking, three Asian nations were included. For example, Japan and Taiwan were ranked 2nd and 20th. Showing that Asia countries have one of the best healthcare efficiency systems in the world. And the healthcare costs are surprisingly lower than in some major countries in the world.

While the U.S. was placed 30th with a care system score of 72.7, and our annual 2019 Cost of Health Insurance report was ranked 54th among the most expensive location for health insurance.

It brings up an interesting conundrum regarding Hong Kong’s healthcare efficiency. What factors contribute to Hong Kong’s healthcare efficiency being better than that of the U.S.? Let’s check that out in the next paragraph.

What makes healthcare in Hong Kong so efficient?

The ranking of the US brings about an interesting question: What makes Hong Kong more “efficient” when it comes to healthcare than the US? It can’t be the price. After all, many private hospitals in the city cost just as much, or more than those in the US.

Instead, it’s largely due to the three major metrics that were combined to develop the index and ranking. For its index, Bloomberg used:

  • Life expectancy – The average time a person in each location is expected to live.
  • Relative health expenditure – The amount spent on healthcare in relation to the location’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • Absolute health expenditure – The average amount people spend on healthcare in each location. This is calculated by multiplying the relative health expenditure percentage by the total GDP.

The three metrics being weighed are 60%, 30%, and 10% respectively.

In addition, the index reported that people are expected to live an average of 78.39 years, while healthcare makes up 7.78% of the total GDP, and on average people will spend USD $2,279 per year on healthcare.

Conversely, in the US, citizens have an average life expectancy of 78.7 years, healthcare makes up 16.8% of the total GDP, and people will spend an average of USD $9,536 on healthcare each year.

The US has the highest relative health expenditure of any country included in the index. The higher the relative number, the more citizens will spend on medical care and the higher the cost of care, which could have an impact on the efficiency rating.

The reason Hong Kong’s relative numbers are lower than many other countries is primarily due to the extensive subsidization of public healthcare carried out by the government.

The government also actively manages the healthcare industry, which when taken into account by the index makes the healthcare system rank more efficiently. This is also seen in countries with similar statistics and management styles like Singapore and South Korea.

What does this mean in terms of health insurance?

Is Hong Kong’s healthcare efficient? Yes, especially when looking only at the factors included in the Bloomberg Index. But you do have to take this index with a slight grain of salt, however, as the index only uses a few metrics.

For true efficiency, you need to look at more. For example, while the public system here is without a doubt good, there can be long wait times, and doctors rarely spend a great deal of time with patients due to a high caseload. This can come across to some as inefficient.

What’s more, the actions taken by the government also likely offset the higher cost of care at private hospitals. As we stated above, a higher cost of care will likely lead to a slightly lower efficiency rating.

Private hospitals and clinics all offer a high standard of care, along with generally short wait times and highly trained doctors. While factors such as these lead to an efficient system, the problem is that the cost can be much higher than with public healthcare.

This is where health insurance, especially international heal insurance plans, comes in. They help residents in Hong Kong, as well as medical tourists that come to the city, gain access to the private system by covering some or all of the cost.

If you are looking to take advantage of the private healthcare system in Hong Kong, it is advisable to secure a robust health insurance plan.

Still curious about Hong Kong’s healthcare system? Discover more about the healthcare system in Hong Kong with our informative overview or talk with the team at Pacific Prime Hong Kong today to learn more about your options.

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Senior Copywriter at Pacific Prime Hong Kong
Jantra Jacobs is a Senior Copywriter at Pacific Prime with over 10 years of writing and editing experience. She writes and edits a diverse variety of online and offline copy, including sales and marketing materials ranging from articles and advertising copy to reports, guides, RFPs, and more.

Jantra curates and reports on the results of Pacific Prime’s monthly newsletters, as well as manages Pacific Prime’s Deputy Global CEO’s LinkedIn posts. Complemented by her background in business writing, Jantra’s passion for health, insurance, and employee benefits helps her create engaging content - no matter how complex the subject is.

Growing up as a third-culture kid has given her a multicultural perspective that helps her relate to expats and their families while 8 years of working remotely have given her unique insight into hybrid work arrangements and enthusiasm for employee benefits.
Jantra Jacobs