The digitalization of the Chinese healthcare system
– An increased focus on efficiency and accessibility may create business opportunities for Swedish companies
The aim of this report is to describe current digitalization trends in the health care sector in China, as well as opportunities for Swedish companies in this sector. The report, which contributes to the Swedish export strategy, shows how digitalization is contributing to changes in
China’s health care sector, focusing especially on information systems in hospitals but to a lesser degree also on online health care and mobile health applications.
A key component of the reform program Healthy China 2020 is to use digital health products to create better accessibility and efficiency in China’s health care sector. Until today, digital information systems in hospitals and telemedicine platforms have already contributed to some improvement in China’s health care, such as reduced waiting time in some overcrowded hospitals and higher quality in primary care centers. Health care digitalization is at the same time creating new market opportunities for both domestic and foreign companies. However, the opportunities and challenges differ for different digital products and services.
- The market for digital hospital information systems is going to expand in the coming years, as the demand increases from small hospitals as well as hospitals in the country’s western regions. There is a continued demand for systems that create higher efficiency, better integration between systems and better possibilities for data sharing. A challenge for Swedish companies is that domestic IT-firms and international companies have an advantage through early positioning on the market, early introduction of IT-systems and connections with hospitals and local authorities. The competition is also expected to become increasingly intense through consolidation the coming years.
- The market for health web platforms and mobile applications is characterized by very high competition. Few Swedish companies have up to now been successful in this area. Challenges include advantages of domestic firms in terms of existing networks, contacts and customers, as well as the need for extensive investment into marketing for products to become successful.
- The possibilities for Swedish companies that work with advanced software for treatment optimization and education are promising. The competition is somewhat less intense for sophisticated products with a clear niche. Several Swedish companies have established on the market in recent years and now plan for expansion. A challenge is to identify suitable distributors and cooperation partners in China.
Another important area is the development of technology and platforms for analysis of big data. There is, for example, a strong interest to use big data analysis in the development of new preventive health strategies. The establishment of international databases for analysis and data sharing is also an area with potential for international research cooperation. Sweden has established research cooperation with China in the area of health care and should be well position to extend cooperation to this field. In conclusion, the demand for digital health products and services in China is very strong, especially since they are believed to constitute a solution to several challenges within the health care sector. Emphasizing digital components that are part of broader health concepts may therefore be an example of Swedish strategic marketing in technology-friendly China.