Thursday, June 21, 2012

This won't hurt a bit

I have a confession to make: I never visited a doctor in the UAE that I was not forced to. I got a physical because it was required for my insurance when I first arrived; I got a blood test because the government wanted to make sure I wasn't importing any horrible diseases.

But beyond that, I stayed away. This was partly because I didn't have any serious health issues, but mostly because I did not fully trust the system or my health insurance. In my work I encountered enough stories about badly trained doctors--or worse, doctors who had been kicked out of their home countries for some serious screw-ups--to make the idea of scheduling an appointment unappealing. Judging by my co-workers' experiences, a trip to the clinic was a bit of a dice-roll. Some people got good care, others got terrible care and just about everyone complained about Daman, the state-owned insurance company.

There's a lot more to say about health care in the UAE, but that isn't what this post is about. It's about Hong Kong and my first trip to a doctor here.

And I can sum that up easily: it was excellent. The office was clean and modern; the doctor was from Hong Kong but had trained in Britain; the process was efficient; the paperwork minimal. I literally had to sign one form and everything was taken care of. No money changed hands at all, not even for prescriptions. (I realize that for the Brits in the audience--wave so I can see you--this is not novel. But for me it most certainly is.)

The major difference from medical care I have gotten in the U.S., which has been excellent if not always easy to access, is a focus on treatment rather than prevention. It was my first time there, but no one measured, or even asked, my height and weight. The doctor took an extensive oral history from me, but his main concern was why I had come to see him and what he could do to fix me.

Like I said, all in all a great experience. It can be intimidating, at least mentally, to put yourself in the care of a physician in a foreign country, but this felt entirely comfortable.

I know I have a tendency to, shall we say, extrapolate good experiences; I didn't know what to expect from my visit, which made expectations easy to exceed. So this is not to say that there aren't bad doctors and decrepit offices in Hong Kong. But knowing you have someplace good to go for health care takes a little bit of the sting out of living far from home.

1 comment:

Pietro Devon said...

can't wait to hear about the dentist visit.