Practicing Naturopathic Medicine in Hong Kong
Wendy Tao , B.Sc., Student Representative
I had the opportunity to visit two different multidisciplinary clinics where North American licensed naturopathic physicians Dr. Ardyce Yik, a CCNM graduate and Dr. Lynn Lim, a Bastyr graduate practiced respectively when I visited Hong Kong during my break. Interesting enough, they both work part-time for two different clinics which both located in Central, the commercial and downtown area of Hong Kong and they also work part-time in the same clinic in Repulse Bay which is a well-off area in Hong Kong.
From my conversation with Dr. Yik, she said she enjoys working in Hong Kong more than in Canada. According to her, perhaps it's because people in Hong Kong are more willing to pay out-of-pocket for medical/healthcare that works versus having access to a "free" healthcare system as in Canada. Before her relocation to Hong Kong, Dr. Yik was the Clinic Director of a health clinic in Toronto. She found that it took less time to establish her patient base in Hong Kong compared with establishing in Toronto and word-of-mouth advertising is the most effective way to establish oneself in Hong Kong. Nonetheless, she believes there is a more general awareness of naturopathic/natural medicine in Canada. It is interesting that even though her patients in Hong Kong are more willing to pay out-of-pocket for naturopathic treatment; naturopathic physicians/doctors are indeed not regulated in Hong Kong. There is no regulatory body in Hong Kong to govern the profession and naturopathic doctors cannot use IV therapy and acupuncture as treatment modalities in Hong Kong.
The clientele of both doctors are mostly expatriates and foreigners. Expatriates include mostly Westerners living and working in Hong Kong from Britain, Canada, US and Australia. They usually have a higher disposable income and better benefits than the average locals/Chinese in Hong Kong. In addition, the locals are usually not familiar with naturopathic medicine and they find that the doctor’s fee for naturopathic doctor compared to medical doctor very expensive which is on average three times more. The doctor fees of family physicians in Hong Kong are not covered by the government and people do have to pay-out-of-pocket. I think part of the reasons that naturopathic medicine is not as popular among the locals is because naturopathic medicine is quite a new concept to them and they do not see the value. Keep in mind that Hong Kong was a British colony for over one hundred fifty years and conventional medicine definitely is the mainstream medicine and most people regard medical doctor as their primary care doctor.
There are only a handful of North American trained naturopathic doctors practicing in Hong Kong. One can only hope that as the profession gains momentum and popularity over there, a governing body and local association will be established to recognize, regulate, and help promote the profession to the general public.