Challenges and opportunities in the medical devices industry in China after Covid-19

The pandemic has boosted the sales of medical devices related to Covid-19 prevention and management in China.

By GlobalData Healthcare

China is among the ten largest medical devices markets worldwide and is regarded as one of the most promising markets. According to a GlobalData analysis, the forecast market value of medical devices in China will be around $42.6bn this year, accounting for 8.3% of key devices market globally.

The Chinese medical device market will continuously expand due to the growing ageing population, technological improvements and the development of clinic and hospital services following the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. Changes in long-term demand, registration approvals and investment environments have brought challenges and opportunities to the country’s medical device companies.

As the initial epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, all medical procedures and services were severely impacted in China. All operating rooms were unused, except for emergencies. All medical resources and personnel were reassigned to treat Covid-19 patients. Medical devices not related to Covid-19 experienced a sharp drop in demand. Last year, increased sales brought the medical device industry back to pre-pandemic levels. However, a new wave of Covid-19 hit China on a large scale in March this year, severely impacting the country’s supply chain, which affects many industries including medical devices. When the pandemic eventually ends, the medical device market will return to normal once again.

The pandemic has boosted the sales of medical devices related to Covid-19 prevention and management. Medical devices such as testing reagents, medical masks, medical protective gowns, ventilators and infrared thermometers not only saw an increase in sales due to strong domestic demand, but also continued to expand their production and supply for customers overseas.

Many Covid-19 testing companies have now raised enough funds to invest in the research into and demand for new in vitro diagnostic product lines. In addition, the pandemic expedited the development of the medical infrastructure in Tier I hospitals and clinics. Multiple government departments issued guidelines regarding purchasing advanced configurations of large medical equipment last year. Domestic devices are usually preferred over imported medical devices for national or regional procurement.

Product innovation has become the key to achieve long-term success for device companies after the Covid-19 pandemic. New medical technologies have continued to emerge. The development of digital healthcare has been accelerated in China during the pandemic. The application of new technologies, including artificial intelligence and ‘big data’, has shown signs of commercialisation. Point-of-care testing, precision medicine and wearable devices in the field of diagnosis and treatment have been used in clinical practice. These new technologies are important to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of diseases, and will profoundly affect the development direction of the medical device industry in China.