Bupa has called for joint efforts to improve data transparency in Hong Kong's private healthcare market.
Bupa published a report on Hong Kong's private healthcare market that highlights the key role of data transparency in improving consumers' healthcare experience and the sustainability of the healthcare system.
Dr. Sarah Salvilla, Medical and Health Risk Management Director – International Markets, Bupa, commented, "Our report shows transparency is a vehicle to help improve quality and manage costs in healthcare, as well as help people make more informed healthcare decisions.”
The report highlights the important role of data in increasing transparency, reducing costs and increasing quality as demonstrated by best practices from the UK, Australia, Singapore and the U.S. that can be readily adapted to Hong Kong.
Angus Slater, Managing Director for Bupa in Hong Kong, said, "Every stakeholder across the healthcare system has a role to play in driving transparency forward. We can look domestically to strengthen processes specific to the Hong Kong market, as well as externally to compare and learn across regions. Doing so will enable us to better manage health costs in Hong Kong, creating a stronger, more sustainable healthcare system in the long run.”
Thalia Georgiou, Managing Partner of Asia Care Group stated, "The analysis is a rallying wake-up call to all stakeholders involved in the private care sector. Hong Kong needs to simultaneously increase pricing transparency and quality transparency to allow consumers to make informed decisions on the cost-effectiveness of their care.”
The research conducted by Asia Care Group on behalf of Bupa examines transparency across the areas of finance, quality, and patient experience, analysing local market data sources and statistics from the Food and Health Bureau, the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers and Hospital Authority, along with international best practices that have been successfully adopted in other markets such as US, UK, Australia and Singapore.
The research finds that Hong Kong people's actual out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure on health more than quadrupled to over HKD 43 billion between 1989/90 and 2013/14. The figure is projected to rise even further, and more than double to over HKD 94 billion by 2024/25 if no major improvements in the health system are put in place.
Specific issues identified in the areas of financial transparency, quality transparency, and transparency of patient experience include:
- Prices of the same procedures delivered for different "room class" vary a lot and there is no published quality data to support such variation. For instance, cataract removal can cost private-room patients over 40% more than semi-private room patients, largely driven by higher surgical and doctor fees.
- Hong Kong does not have a system-wide approach to monitoring the quality and performance of private healthcare providers that is consistent with international norms and best practice. As a result, it is difficult for patients to assess the quality of prospective providers on key indicators such as mortality rates, readmission rates, infection rates or surgical revision rates.
- Consumers are prevented from making more informed decisions due to inconsistent information such as unclear price breakdowns and incomplete procedure lists. As found by the Food and Health Bureau*, provider pricing data in its current form is not sufficiently informative for those seeking to make like for like comparisons between providers.
* In October 2016, the Food and Health Bureau rolled out a pilot programme for price transparency for private hospitals in Hong Kong: http://www.fhb.gov.hk/en/press_and_publications/press/2016/press160929.htm
Amongst a number of calls to action for the benefit of consumers, the report calls on the Government to create frameworks and standards for healthcare data that the private sector can adopt and implement consistently. It recommends private providers invest more in electronic data systems and electronic health records, and insurers drive change in the market through the contracts they negotiate with providers.