Strong demand is predicted during a span of five years for ultrasound equipment in China thanks to the positive impact of the nation’s healthcare reform, pushing the ultrasound gear market for that vast East Asian country to a billion-dollar industry, according to a new report from IHS (NYSE: IHS), a leading global source of critical information and insight.
Revenue for ultrasound equipment in China is forecast to top $1.5 billion by 2017, up a sizable 65 percent from $908.8 million in 2012. This year in particular will mark an important watershed as the industry crosses the billion-dollar threshold, with continued rapid growth expected to take place up until at least the end of the forecast window.
“The impact of the Chinese government’s 2012 healthcare reform plan on the ultrasound market will be the largest growth driver for the Chinese market,” said Benjamin Niu, IHS analyst and author of the report “The Chinese Market for Ultrasound Imaging Equipment – 2013 Edition.” Plans to construct a new network of Tier 2 county-based hospitals, paired with the replacement of ultrasound systems in metropolitan Tier 3 hospitals, will also figure in the robust growth equation, driving annual revenue expansion above 10 percent for the next four years, Niu added.
Another key market development is the shift in product mix. Previous health reform programs in China focused mostly on equipping rural healthcare clinics with low-end basic ultrasound equipment. However, the newest reform plans to improve county-based services by equipping hospitals with higher-specification equipment. As a result, revenue growth in the midrange, high and premium segments is predicted at between 15 and 25 percent annually for the period from 2012 to 2015.
The clinical use of ultrasound in China is likewise undergoing some changes. Currently most hospitals in China have an ultrasound department where all ultrasound scans are conducted and system procurement is managed. This is in stark contrast to the majority of other global healthcare markets, where ultrasound is routinely found in more than 20 clinical departments. But while China may lag at present, the report predicts a significant change in ultrasound use within the country during the five-year period that started in 2012.
“We see significant future growth in demand for ultrasound in new clinical applications outside of the hospital ultrasound department,” Niu remarked. “Increased demand for specific systems in surgery, the emergency room and intensive care will be the first adopters, especially with the expanding range of specialist compact systems that become available. However, the low number of trained ultrasound users in other departments will act as the main limiting factor in the short and midterm, so the traditional ultrasound department will continue to have a significant role.”
All told, the combination of new government investment, diversifying clinical use and changing product mix is set to drive strong future growth of the ultrasound equipment industry in China. Moreover, improvements in the quality of healthcare services in rural and metropolitan areas alike will shower positive benefits on the market.
Ultrasound revenue growth in China is set, therefore, to far outstrip that of other global territories, most of which will struggle to top an annual increase of 5 percent in the same period. Given that the 2012 healthcare reform is seen by many in the industry as the foundation for even further investments, it may not be too much longer until China—currently the second-largest ultrasound market in the world after the United States—ascends to the top and becomes the world’s biggest.