China has been an economic powerhouse for years now, and against the backdrop of the country’s current overall economic growth, its medical device industry is doing extremely well. By 2013, the country had become the world’s second-biggest medical device market, spending some RMB 200 billion, an astounding figure given that medical devices are often the second choice of Chinese physicians, who often prefer medication. The industry’s continued growth in China is practically assured. The country’s population is aging, and while the government has only expanded health care expenditures by 20 percent over the last decade, the rapid increase in living standards across the country has driven demand for high-tech medical services.
Despite this astounding growth, China still accounts for only 2 to 3 percent of the international medical device market. The country depends on imports for most of its high-end medical devices, with some 90 percent of MRI and ultrasound machines manufactured abroad. These figures are falling, in part because many medical device manufacturers have begun moving their operations to China. The country remains a very attractive export market for device manufacturers in the United States, Japan, and Germany. This dynamic is changing, due in part to the Chinese government’s recent pledge to spend some RMB 400 billion to digitize its health care systems between 2012 and 2020.
The government’s investment in its health care industry has resulted in exciting new devices that will soon reach the market. One medical device company, FinlTop, has focused its attention on the miniaturization of equipment that was previously only available in hospitals. Its latest product, a handheld electrocardiogram (ECG), eschews the usual electrodes in favor of two thumb sensors on a smartphone-shaped device, providing quick information and simple diagnosis for some $50 a unit. The company also produces a variety of other devices that bring the hospital into the home, such as blood pressure monitors, urine analyzers, and pulse oximeters. Due to the efforts of companies like FinlTop, as well as new government regulations that seek to encourage hospitals to use Chinese-produced devices, the country appears on track to further its growth in the medical devices industry.