Hong Kong is a special administrative region in China, located at the south-eastern point of China. The region covers Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, including 261 outlying islands. The constitutional document of the “Basic Law” ensures that Hong Kong maintains its autonomy, due to its integral concept of “one country, two systems.” This grants the region its own independent executive, judicial and legislative power. As of 2022, the region had an estimated population of 7.35 million. Despite being efficient, Hong Kong’s health care is reported to be underdeveloped. In order to better serve its aging population, the government is making a change to its system. Currently, the aim of health care is to become more centered on community prevention. And the recent launch of Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s health management app reflects a step forward in improving Hong Kong’s elderly health care.
Hong Kong Has an Aging Population
The region has one of the world’s most rapidly aging populations. By 2039, those aged 65 and above are projected to increase from 1.5 million in 2021 to 2.52 million, comprising 31% of the population. Similarly, those aged 80 and above will increase from 0.4 million in 2021 to 0.93 million in 2039. This will be an increase from 5% to 11.5%. As people age, the prevalence of chronic diseases and illnesses rises, leading to increased health care demands. As of 2020-2021, 47% of people who suffered health problems were aged 65 and above. This is around 2.2 million people, with estimates suggesting that the number could increase to 3 million by 2039.
Hong Kong’s Oxfam found that up to 85% of its elderly cannot retire due to financial hardship. In 2020, a situation report revealed that 45% of citizens aged 65 and above live in poverty. Many have no choice but to keep working in order to support their unemployed spouse, leaving them to doubly work as caregivers. Consequently, the elderly become more susceptible to illnesses. The fees for government medical services are increasing and waiting times exceed one year. An elderly person has to wait an average of three years before being admitted to a subsidized home, with more than 6,000 individuals passing away during this waiting period.
Reforming Health Care
In December 2022, the government introduced the Primary Healthcare Blueprint, aimed at enhancing Hong Kong’s elderly health care. Its main objective is to focus on disease prevention rather than focusing on treatment. This will improve the population’s health status and provide functional healthcare services that will form a sustainable health care system. Considering the increase in service demand, the Hospital Authority is monitoring the use of various medical services to better serve the public.
The mHealth App Provides Interactive Nursing Support
Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Nursing has developed a mobile health management app for the elderly in collaboration with a local telecommunications company. The app includes 24/7 nursing interaction, allowing users to initiate video calls with nurses for physical and mental support. The app is also connected to a health monitoring device, which can trigger early interventions by alerting a nurse or caregiver when it detects abnormalities in vital signs.
Positive Impact: Improving Quality of Life
A pilot study involving 221 elderly participants aged 60 and above occurred at five elderly service centers of the Hong Kong Lutheran Social Service. Each participant had at least one chronic health condition such as hypertension or diabetes. After using the app for six months, the study reported reduced depression levels and decreased use of medical services. Additionally, participants experienced an increase in self-efficacy and an improved quality of life.
Why Does this Matter?
The combination of digital technology and nursing assistance can help reduce the pressure on public medical services. The use of PolyU’s mobile app is a significant step toward improving Hong Kong’s elderly health care and alleviating its elderly poverty. Research teams recommend the use of digital technology for health management and plan to integrate artificial intelligence into the app to better cater to the needs of the elderly. With the growing demand for public medical services in the face of its aging population, Hong Kong’s latest app development demonstrates the use of innovative solutions to aid the elderly and general health care.
– Grace Clay