Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Hong Kong Has "The Most Efficient Health Care System In The World"

The Huffington Post has an interesting article that shows that according to a recent Bloomberg ranking, Hong Kong has the most efficient health care system in the world. The real point of the story is to show that the US is 46th of 48 countries: 
"In other words, the world's richest country spends more of its money on health care while getting less than almost every other nation in return."
Of course, all such rankings depend on how variables are measured. In this case, though I'm happy to have Hong Kong's success recognized, I think the measure is a bit too primitive.
Each country was ranked on three criteria: life expectancy (weighted 60%), relative per capita cost of health care (30%); and absolute per capita cost of health care (10%). Countries were scored on each criterion and the scores were weighted and summed to obtain their efficiency scores.
So life expectancy is the only measure of health outcome.  A bit primitive, but not invalid.

The main message from the story is that all the top (most efficient) systems are heavily state controlled, and are universal.
Despite being considered by some as having the freest economy in the world, Hong Kong's universal health care system involves heavy government participation; its own health secretary calls public medicine the "cornerstone" of the system. Public hospitals account for 90 percent of in-patient procedures, while the numerous private options are mostly used by the wealthy.
Many Americans will just dismiss this. Nothing will shake their faith in the "free" market.


Christine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine said...

The public affair cannot just depend on the free market as other economy as the experts in public economy has told us. But HK is not the only country use the power of government to control the health issues. Why HK has done it best? Anything about culture and other alternative medicine? Do you think it can be a topic for the anthropology research?

a student

JB said...

I think the first step in trying to understand this issue is to examine why HK is rated #1. There are certain indicators that are used in that ranking, and others are ignored. For example, I'm sure they did not consider that there is a 3 year waiting list for pediatric psychiatry! Remember that HK is #1 in "efficiency"; that is health care per dollar. It does not mean it is the best health care, or even the ideal level of health care. It measures success in terms of life expectancy, which is reasonable, but that does not include quality of life. So the first step in an anthropological analysis would be to analyze what they mean by "#1".