A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to be invited on a Chinese Healthcare Industry Trade Mission sponsored by the Chinese Government and the Medical Tourism Association. It was a quick dash to get my visa and itinerary in order, but after a 24 hour flight, I joined several prominent healthcare investors, executives, doctors and surgeons from around the US and Europe as we toured three provinces in and around south eastern China.
Our trip commenced in Wuzhou at The 2nd International Healthcare Industry Resource Conference. After the conference was over our group traveled to Hainan Island, to tour a soon to be completed 1,000 bed Hainan Cancer Hospital in Sanya. We then traveled to Boao as guests of the 2015 Promotion Conference of Hainan Healthcare Industry where we learned about their multi-billion dollar medical city slated for completion in 2020. Following our visit, the trade mission culminated in beautiful city of Guilin with a 2-day trade show and exhibit dedicated to World Medical Tourism in the Asian-Pacific zone.
Although the areas we visited varied greatly in culture, topography and climate, there were several key trends I observed across all locations on this trip:
- Healthcare’s Delivered on a Massive Scale
With a population of 1.4 Billion, China is home to some of the world’s largest hospitals – with the largest in Henan Province housing 7,000 beds (the largest US hospital is NY Presbyterian with just 2,200 beds). Currently, there are over 26,000 hospitals in China with a 60/40 split between public and private respectively. Even with this type of bandwidth, many Chinese hospitals are continually strained under strong demand for services and on average 2,000 new hospitals are being built each year to meet demand.
- Aging Population Driving Long Term, Memory, and Elder Care Industry Boom
While the recently repealed One Child policy succeeded at curbing runaway population growth over the last three decades, it’s also created a top heavy demographic profile with an estimated 265 Million Chinese over the age of 65 – a number that’s expected to reach 320 Million by 2020.
Compounding the issue is the fact that in China, traditionally the eldest son is responsible to care for their parents at home. Due to the One Child Policy, many families are left without male heirs; placing added pressures to deliver quality elder care for a large percentage of senior citizens. As a result, in many of the provinces we visited, there are currently government-backed projects to develop expansive healthcare cities with large elder care and long-term care facilities as key parts of their plans. Local municipalities and Chinese investors are looking to the west for guidance in building hybrid models that call on best practices found in US health systems while still allowing for traditional Chinese family values and medicine to be a part of the equation.
- Second Child Policy Creates Huge Need for IVF and Surrogacy Services
China is projecting a mini-boom of about 11 Million new children as a result of the new 2-child policy. Due to a more urban, affluent population and lower fertility rates of older couples, this number may only reach 1 million based on early registration trends. As a result, IVF and Surrogacy markets are seeing strong demand; and many affluent Chinese are actively seeking services abroad. With strong government support driving this initiative, strengthened cooperation and demand for US based IVF services will increase near term.
With many of the improvements and expansions in the healthcare sector being aggressively backed by the government and driven by demographic trends, it’s an exciting time for China’s healthcare industry. As a result of the contacts we’ve made, we’re actively pursuing consulting agreements with several municipal and private investors to help incorporate best practices for medical marketing and patient engagement into their operations. If you’re active in the Chinese healthcare market or are looking for new partnership opportunities we’d look forward to comparing notes.