Open Access Research article

Comparison of primary care experiences among adults in general outpatient clinics and private general practice clinics in Hong Kong

Samuel YS Wong1*, Kenny Kung1, Sian M Griffiths1, Tanya Carthy1, Martin CS Wong1, Su V Lo2, Vincent CH Chung1, William B Goggins1 and Barbara Starfield3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health and Primary Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, PR China

2 Strategy and Planning, Hospital Authority Headquarter, Hong Kong SAR, PR China

3 School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:397  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-397

Published: 6 July 2010



The main goal of Hong Kong's publicly-funded general outpatient clinics (GOPCs) is to provide primary medical services for the financially vulnerable. The objective of the current study was to compare the primary care experiences of GOPC users and the users of care provided by private general practitioners (GPs) in Hong Kong via a territory-wide telephone survey.


One thousand adults in Hong Kong aged 18 and above were interviewed by a telephone survey. The modified Chinese translated Primary Care Assessment Tool was used to collect data on respondents' primary care experience.


Our results indicated that services provided by GOPC were more often used by female, older, poorer, chronically-ill and less educated population. GOPC participants were also more likely to have visited a specialist or used specialist services (69.7% vs. 52.0%; p < 0.001), although this difference in utilization of specialist services disappeared after adjusting for age (55.7% vs. 52.0%, p = 0.198). Analyses were also performed to asses the relationship between healthcare settings (GOPCs versus private GPs) and primary care quality. Private GP patients achieved higher overall PCAT scores largely due to better accessibility (Mean: 6.88 vs. 8.41, p < 0.001) and person-focused care (Mean: 8.37 vs. 11.69, p < 0.001).


Our results showed that patients primarily receiving care from private GPs in Hong Kong reported better primary care experiences than those primarily receiving care from GOPCs. This was largely due to the greater accessibility and better interpersonal relationships offered by the private GPs. As most patients use both GOPCs and private GPs, their overall primary care experiences may not be as different as the findings of this study imply.