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1.  Can vouchers make a difference to the use of private primary care services by older people? Experience from the healthcare reform programme in Hong Kong 
Background
As part of its ongoing healthcare reform, the Hong Kong Government introduced a voucher scheme, intended for encouraging older patients to use primary healthcare services in the private sector, thereby, reducing burden on the overwhelmed public sector. The voucher program is also considered one of the strategies to further develop the public private partnership in healthcare, a policy direction of high political priority as indicated in the Chief Executive Policy Address in 2008-09. This study assessed whether the voucher scheme, as implemented so far, has reached its intended goals, and how it might be further improved in the context of public-private partnership.
Methods
This was a cross-sectional study using structured questionnaires by face-to-face interviews with older people aged 70 or above in Hong Kong, the target group of the demand-side voucher program.
Results
71.2% of 1,026 older people were aware of the new voucher scheme but only 35.0% had ever used it. The majority of the older people used the vouchers for acute curative services in the private sector (82.4%) and spent less on preventive services. Despite the provision of vouchers valued US$30 per year as an incentive to encourage the use of private primary care services, after 12-months of implementation, 66.2% of all respondents agreed with the statement that "the voucher scheme does not change their health seeking behaviours on seeing public or private healthcare professionals". The most common reasons for no change in their behaviours included "I am used to seeing doctors in the public system" and "The amount of the subsidy is too low". Those who usually used a mix of public and private doctors and those with better self-reported health condition compared to last year were more likely to perceive a change in their own health seeking behaviours.
Conclusions
Our study showed that despite a reasonably high awareness of the voucher scheme, its usage was low. The voucher alone was not enough to realize the government's policy of greater use of the private primary care services. Greater publicity and more variety of media promotion would increase awareness but the effectiveness of vouchers in changing older people's behaviour needs to be revisited. Designating vouchers for use of preventive services with evidence-based practice could be considered. In addition to the demand-side subsidies, improving transparency and comparability of private services against the public sector might be necessary.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-255
PMCID: PMC3200178  PMID: 21978140
2.  Patient self-management and pharmacist-led patient self-management in Hong Kong: A focus group study from different healthcare professionals' perspectives 
Background
Patient self-management is a key approach to manage non-communicable diseases. A pharmacist-led approach in patient self-management means collaborative care between pharmacists and patients. However, the development of both patient self-management and role of pharmacists is limited in Hong Kong. The objectives of this study are to understand the perspectives of physicians, pharmacists, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners, and dispensers on self-management of patients with chronic conditions, in addition to exploring the possibilities of developing pharmacist-led patient self-management in Hong Kong.
Methods
Participants were invited through the University as well as professional networks. Fifty-one participants comprised of physicians, pharmacists, TCM practitioners and dispensers participated in homogenous focus group discussions. Perspectives in patient self-management and pharmacist-led patient self-management were discussed. The discussions were audio recorded, transcribed and analysed accordingly.
Results
The majority of the participants were in support of patients with stable chronic diseases engaging in self-management. Medication compliance, monitoring of disease parameters and complications, lifestyle modification and identifying situations to seek help from health professionals were generally agreed to be covered in patient self-management. All pharmacists believed that they had extended roles in addition to drug management but the other three professionals believed that pharmacists were drug experts only and could only play an assisting role. Physicians, TCM practitioners, and dispensers were concerned that pharmacist-led patient self-management could be hindered, due to unfamiliarity with the pharmacy profession, the perception of insufficient training in disease management, and lack of trust of patients.
Conclusions
An effective chronic disease management model should involve patients in stable condition to participate in self-management in order to prevent health deterioration and to save healthcare costs. The role of pharmacists should not be limited to drugs and should be extended in the primary healthcare system. Pharmacist-led patient self-management could be developed gradually with the support of government by enhancing pharmacists' responsibilities in health services and developing public-private partnership with community pharmacists. Developing facilitating measures to enhance the implementation of the pharmacist-led approach should also be considered, such as allowing pharmacists to access electronic health records, as well as deregulation of more prescription-only medicines to pharmacy-only medicines.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-121
PMCID: PMC3127980  PMID: 21609422
patient self-management; pharmacist-led patient self-management; chronic disease; health policy; Hong Kong
3.  Avoidable readmission in Hong Kong - system, clinician, patient or social factor? 
Background
Studies that identify reasons for readmissions are gaining importance in the light of the changing demographics worldwide which has led to greater demand for hospital beds. It is essential to profile the prevalence of avoidable readmissions and understand its drivers so as to develop possible interventions for reducing readmissions that are preventable. The aim of this study is to identify the magnitude of avoidable readmissions, its contributing factors and costs in Hong Kong.
Methods
This was a retrospective analysis of 332,453 inpatient admissions in the Medical specialty in public hospital system in Hong Kong in year 2007. A stratified random sample of patients with unplanned readmission within 30 days after discharge was selected for medical record reviews. Eight physicians reviewed patients' medical records and classified whether a readmission was avoidable according to an assessment checklist. The results were correlated with hospital inpatient data.
Results
It was found that 40.8% of the 603 unplanned readmissions were judged avoidable by the reviewers. Avoidable readmissions were due to: clinician factor (42.3%) including low threshold for admission and premature discharge etc.; patient factor (including medical and health factor) (41.9%) such as relapse or progress of previous complaint, and compliance problems etc., followed by system factor (14.6%) including inadequate discharge planning, inadequate palliative care/terminal care, etc., and social factor (1.2%) such as carer system, lack of support and community services. After adjusting for patients' age, gender, principal diagnosis at previous discharge and readmission hospitals, the risk factors for avoidable readmissions in the total population i.e. all acute care admissions irrespective of whether there was a readmission or not, included patients with a longer length of stay, and with higher number of hospitalizations and attendance in public outpatient clinics and Accident and Emergency departments in the past 12 months. In the analysis of only unplanned readmissions, it was found that the concordance of the principal diagnosis for admission and readmission, and shorter time period between discharge and readmission were associated with avoidable readmissions.
Conclusions
Our study found that almost half of the readmissions could have been prevented. They had been mainly due to clinician and patient factors, in particular, both of which were intimately related to clinical management and patient care. These readmissions could be prevented by a system of ongoing clinical review to examine the clinical practice/decision for discharge, and improving clinical care and enhancing patient knowledge of the early warning signs for relapse. The importance of adequate and appropriate ambulatory care to support the patients in the community was also a key finding to reduce avoidable readmissions. Education on patient self-management should also be enhanced to minimize the patient factors with regard to avoidable readmission. Our findings thus provide important insights into the development of an effective discharge planning system which should place patients and carers as the primacy focus of care by engaging them along with the healthcare professionals in the whole discharge planning process.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-311
PMCID: PMC2993701  PMID: 21080970

Results 1-3 (3)