China to Take on Leading Role in Medical Technology and Artificial Intelligence

Asia, in particular China, has been advancing significantly on its way to a key role in geopolitics, says correspondent Frank Sieren - and towards spearheading developments in medical technologies. At the same time, the healthcare market there is growing at a remarkable pace. What are the effects on our research and care? For European stakeholders from care delivery, industry, academia, and policymaking, key events such as CMEF offer the opportunity to view and evaluate new products and solutions and to exchange ideas on collaboration with Chinese market players.

First-hand experience is the best option for all who identify opportunities in this setting. Twice each year, the China International Medical Equipment Fair (CMEF) brings together stakeholders from all over the globe. Each spring, the medtech, IVD, and health IT event is part of the Health Industry Summit (tHIS) - a mega-event in Shanghai which sports about 7,400 exhibitors, 130 conferences, and 300,000 attendees http://www.thishealthsummit.com/en/index/mainInformation.do. In autumn, CMEF, organized by Reed Sinopharm, concentrates on a vibrant region in the country; last October, it took place in Tsingtao https://www.cmef.com.cn/g1225.aspx. - Europeans may profit in particular from the spring edition because it comes with more congresses that offer interpreting or English as a conference language.

Market developments in medical technology and health IT

To some market observers, the course the medtech market has been following in China bears quite a resemblance to how the Japanese automobile market developed. In the 1960s, US manufacturers had parts made in the country; as a next phase, cars were assembled there. The Japanese started copying, and expanding engineering know-how - acquired, e.g., at U.S. universities - led to the design and manufacturing of Japanese cars. Today, few will dispute more innovative cars of higher quality are built in that country. Analysts identify parallels in the context of where manufacturing of CTs, MRs, and further sophisticated medtech is going in China.

Key success marketing factors for those devices also in the home market include CE and FDA marks. Beyond China, many of these manufacturers are active in "emerging markets" such as Eastern Europe, Asia, ad Latin America; the central European market is dominated by existing offerings and manufacturers, and a quality bias of “Made in China” which may become obsolete.

The mega trends

In China too, artificial intelligence and the „omics“ range topmost on the research and development agenda. Analysts predict a leading position of Chinese stakeholders – with the U.S. as a key market for selling new solutions and with Europe trailing behind. Fact or fiction – the data privacy issue is certainly an impediment with more of an impact, in particular, in Germany compared to China: the sheer volume of patient information, viable approaches to analysis, and target setting models long in use there in other sectors of life provide the basis for significant progress in research and application. For countries like Germany, where an influx of laws and regulations are now geared towards accelerating developments in the context of patient data but where the backlog is significant, the only viable option for advancement in this field may be to seek collaboration with Chinese organizations.

What about the opportunities for European medtech manufacturers in the Chinese market? Requirements by the accreditation agency CFDA have been made stricter, but manufacturers report a higher degree of transparency of processes. Some criteria in public tenders lead to a preference of domestic producers, but still, European and U.S. manufacturers consider the huge market to be attractive. By 2020, expenditures for care are estimated to reach 6.5 percent of the GDP which stood at 13.41 bn USD in 2018. This enormous demand serves to motivate large manufacturers as well as SMEs to address that market and seek distributors at events such as CMEF, while intellectual property may still be a caveat for some Europeans. Seminars at CMEF serve to communicate essential know-how about market access.

The care provider market in China

In this country with its 1.4 bn inhabitants, private-sector medical services are booming. For several years now, significant investments have been made by domestic and foreign financiers. Privatization - through newly erected private hospitals and larger practices, and rededication of public providers, also by way of PPP models - is part of a major promise by the government aiming at better and more ambitious care. By now, the number of private providers exceeds that of public organizations which, however, still sport a significantly larger number of beds. With this backdrop, international recruiters such as DHR draw attention to the need of qualified and motivated staff in particular on the part of private providers. New technologies, new requirements regarding the economics of managing hospitals, as well as a new approach to the relationship with patients present major challenges to physicians, nurses, and administrators.

Be it with a focus on sales, partnering for research, or investments in care providing and health insurance - future-oriented Europeans can tap promising potentials in China. The next CMEF will be open for business from 9 to 12 April 2020 in Shanghai.

Article by Michael Reiter M.A., Fachjournalist (VMWJ), PR-Berater (AKOMM).

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