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2022-09-13 HKT 20:53
A international survey has found that only 37 percent of eczema patients in the city are working on treatment plans with doctors, while two-thirds have lost hope.
GlobalSkin, an international alliance of dermatology patient organisations, initiated the study covering 330 eczema patients in the SAR, South Korea and Australia in August, with one-third of the respondents in Hong Kong.
Dermatologist Dr Johnny Chan said on Tuesday that the proportion of patients in the city seeking medical advice is “very low”.
He said more than 90 percent of them are being treated by public practitioners, but strained medical resources due to the Covid-19 pandemic have delayed their treatment.
“The queue time of every [eczema] treatment will be two to three years at the moment," he said, adding that does not taken into account the impact Covid has had on waiting times even longer.
“While they are waiting, they think the treatments will not be helping them, and may lose the faith in treatment. They think it’s just incurable, they don’t want to have any treatment anymore,” Chan said.
“Public doctors have a limited time to see a lot of patients every day."
But for moderate to severe cases, he said, "they need some more time for explanations about the disease nature: to have a more tailor-made treatment plan for the patients, and to explain any possible side effects and the way to avoid these side effects.”
Chan added that less than 10 percent of eczema sufferers had sought treatment from the private sector. He said high costs was "very much an issue" here, with 72 percent of patients saying the heavy financial burden had deterred them from visiting doctors.
Dr Marco Ho, who chairs the Hong Kong Allergy Association, said when treatment is delayed, a patients’ immune system further deregulates and their conditions worsen, hence their expectations in consultations can be over-optimistic.
“Sometimes you don’t have the best-matched medication treatment as well as therapies. They have a whole lot of ideas and their own personal belief, so end up when we say ‘control’, they say ‘cure’; when we say ‘short-term gain’, they want a ‘long-term' remission,” he said.
“At times we even think the patient needs hospitalisation [but] they can't afford to stop their work or school.”
To clear up such misinterpretations and handle mental problems when patients are suffering from skin conditions, the allergy association and a concern group under the Hong Kong Health Care Alliance launched a free online counseling service on Tuesday that will run for three months.