Hong Kong, along with Mainland China, is seeing gradual economic adjustment, with slowing growth (forecast at 2%-3% for Hong Kong and 6%-7% for Mainland China in 2016) and a declining number of Mainland tourists in Hong Kong (down 15.5% year on year in December 2015 and minus 3% for the whole year) and Macau (gaming turnover down 30%). There has also been a rise in political unrest, reported to be riots by Mainland China media, adding to the uncertainty for Hong Kong people. Hong Kong has now implemented the Competition Ordinance. Changes to the healthcare market are starting to take place and may alter the competitive landscape and business models in the future. The full impact of the Ordinance on healthcare and other industries is yet to be seen.

The Pharmacy & Poisons Board of Hong Kong is also introducing stricter quality controls after joining the Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme (PIC/S) at the start of 2016. This has meant significant investment to upgrade secondary as well as primary redressing/production facilities. The final deadline for all upgrades is Q3 2016. The Department of Health has released new guidelines on products containing vitamins and glucosamine, which will have a profound impact on the OTC market.

An opening up of the market is expected, with significant competition influencing prices and the OTC landscape. However, the long-term, 10-year hospital development blueprint laid out in the Hong Kong Chief Executive’s Policy Address, is encouraging, with HK$200 billion (US$25 billion) set aside to improve public health. Probably the biggest change for the Hong Kong healthcare consumer is the introduction of the Public Private Partnership Program (PPP). This has been launched as a pilot program in a few districts and will be rolled out throughout Hong Kong in the years to come. The program will create a primary care system of private doctors treating patients with chronic diseases to ease the burden on public hospitals.

The system is heavily supported by public funds. How this will affect the healthcare market and healthcare distribution market remains to be seen, but positive interaction between all stakeholders is resulting in a sustainable environment in which the best service is provided for patients.