Joseph Chaney | September 02nd, 2021

2021 continues to bring surprises, but one thing is now absolutely clear: We will feel Covid 19’s ripple effects for many years to come.

For those of us in Hong Kong, one major question is how Covid will shape the development of the Greater Bay Area’s (GBA) healthcare regime. After all, the GBA -- consisting of Hong Kong, Macau, and nine municipalities of mainland China’s Guangdong province – has a GDP (as of 2020) of US$1.67 billion.

Given Hong Kong’s somewhat limited market size of 7.5 million, the city will never be a standalone market for drug makers. This is especially true in the post-handover era, after the city returned to Chinese sovereignty. That’s where the GBA – with its population of over 86 million – comes in.

Many GBA residents are upwardly mobile, riding a wave of rising living standards on the back of China’s continued development. Inevitably, demand for better medical services among this group is expected to surge as incomes rise. That’s why the New Narrative team is busy researching the key issues driving change across the GBA healthcare sector.

To help you get started on your GBA content marketing campaigns for Q4 2021 or early 2022, we thought we’d share a few topics that we think are worthy of further investigation.

Let’s get started, shall we?

1. Drug approval processes vary across the GBA – and this poses a challenge
We’ve learned quite a bit during our meetings in Hong Kong with leading drug companies over the past year. For example, did you know that some drugs now receive faster approval on the mainland than they do in Hong Kong? That wasn’t the case until a few years ago.

The 港药通, or ‘Hong Kong Medicine Connection’ launched earlier this year is positioned as a gateway to the GBA – giving patients across the GBA access to medical devices and drugs approved in Hong Kong. But there’s a hitch: in Hong Kong, drug approval requires the product having already been approved in two or more countries from a list that includes the US, Japan, Australia, the UK, and the nations of the EU.[1]

In fact, as mentioned, the approval process for new drugs in Hong Kong is, in some cases, apparently proving more drawn out than in mainland China. The time gap has widened further after China’s National Medical Products Administration fast-tracked approval of innovative drugs for urgent clinical needs in 2015.

What can be done to align the various GBA drug approval regimes more closely? How can Hong Kong’s regulators improve the approval process and give drug makers and investors more confidence in the GBA’s potential? These are all questions worthy of further investigation.


2. Hong Kong will play a major role in financing healthcare innovation in the GBA and beyond
Given Hong Kong’s sophisticated commercial and legal infrastructure, the city is the obvious choice for healthcare companies – both mainland-based and international – to raise capital from investors in the region.

To facilitate this, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange changed its listing rules on 30 April 2018 -- allowing pharmaceutical and biopharma issuers to raise funds despite not meeting some traditional listing criteria, such as hitting certain profit thresholds.

Previously, many Chinese healthcare firms chose Nasdaq as their listing destination. But that is all changing following Hong Kong’s rule change in 2018, which unleased a wave of biotech listings in the city.

Here’s a few questions you may seek to answer in your campaigns: Beyond Hong Kong’s role as a healthcare IPO hub, how else is the city financing healthcare innovation in the GBA? In which specific areas should investors hunt for opportunities? How can Hong Kong make investors aware of these opportunities?

3. Private medical insurance in the GBA will likely evolve rapidly in the coming years
Due in part to Covid-19, the Chinese government is more actively supporting the further development of private insurance. At the same time, China’s policymakers have issued fresh guidelines calling for improvements in public insurance for urgent matters such as critical illness and major diseases.

With the government’s ambitious Healthy China 2030 programme – which aims to promote public health and increase awareness of chronic conditions, and foster a proactive (as opposed to a ‘reactive’ health system) – sufficient insurance coverage will become a necessity. On that basis, cross-boundary health insurance in the GBA could help close the coverage gaps for the area’s 86 million people.

However, developing cross-border insurance solutions is complicated by a range of challenges, including the lack of information sharing, differences in supervision systems, and different legal systems among the three GBA regions of Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangdong.

Your campaign could explore the following questions: How might insurers and investors facilitate the evolution of private insurance in the GBA? More specifically, how could blockchain and cloud computing help bridge some of these gaps?

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In summary, there are dozens of ways you could develop a campaign on the evolution of the GBA’s healthcare industry. The ideas above are just a few sample entry points.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember while planning your campaigns is to make sure your expertise on healthcare and the GBA – and your mastery of all of the associated data and jargon – doesn’t overwhelm your editorial voice.

After all, quality thought leadership should inspire readers and spark conversations among industry leaders. Alas, supporting your assertions with data and expertise is a must – but so is maintaining a firm grasp on the big picture.


[1] https://www.drugoffice.gov.hk/...

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