Rehabilitation industry sees need to close gap and grow sector
China's medical rehabilitation industry is projected to reach 100 billion yuan ($14.4 billion; 12.7 billion euros; ￡11.2 billion) in annual sales by 2023, with an annual compound growth rate of over 18 percent, according to a recent report.
The report, released during the China International Medical Equipment Fair in Shanghai from Oct 29 to Nov 1, said that the current usage-per-elderly population ratio of elderly rehabilitation and home healthcare equipment in China is 1:10.
The corresponding figure for European and North American countries is 1:1, demonstrating great growth potential for China's medical rehabilitation industry.
The nation's medical rehabilitation industry remains relatively small due to a lack of rehabilitation equipment, related hospitals and beds.
At present, there are 3,800 rehabilitation institutions in China, accounting for 28 percent of the total number of hospitals nationwide. A complete rehabilitation medical equipment supply system remains to be established.
"The backwardness of Chinese consumers' spending on rehabilitation showed that the domestic medical rehabilitation industry is still quite immature, and the public awareness, equipment, talent and industry chain remain at a primary level," said the report from online market research consultancy Qianzhan.
According to a report released by Chyxx, an online industry information network, the volume of China's rehabilitation medical industry is 20 billion yuan, and the annual per capita expenditure is 15 yuan.
The corresponding figures for the United States are 138 billion yuan and 552 yuan, respectively.
In 2011, the National Health Commission issued a guideline on the establishment and management of rehabilitation departments in hospitals, requiring that comprehensive hospitals set up rehabilitation departments and standard rehabilitation equipment, including multifunctional assessment equipment, exercise therapy equipment, physical treatment equipment and speech disorder-related cognitive treatment equipment.
According to the guideline, 10,000 comprehensive hospitals in China will need to establish rehabilitation departments. Given that the average cost of setting up rehabilitation equipment for each hospital is 3 million yuan to 5 million yuan, the total cost will be from 30 billion to 50 billion yuan.
A recent survey conducted by Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine found that nearly 24 percent of respondents had no idea about rehabilitation treatment and 40 percent held wrong notions about such treatment.
Chapal Khasnabis, a representative of the World Health Organization, says: "Twenty years ago, people had a misunderstanding that only disabled people need rehabilitation equipment. Therefore, when some of them really had the need to use the equipment, they felt shameful. However, now the situation is different.
"As people age, and their physical condition deteriorates, for the consideration of health, they will become users of rehabilitation equipment sooner or later.
"Apart from providing timely medicines and vaccines to more patients in need, medical rehabilitation or auxiliary equipment should be included in future medical public services," Khasnabis adds.
Fan Yubo, director of the National Research Center for Rehabilitation Technical Aids, which is part of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, says: "Internet, virtual reality, big data, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, new material ... all of these cutting-edge sciences and technologies are dedicated to solving problems related to medical rehabilitation.
"Aging, food safety issues and lifestyle have resulted in many chronic diseases in China," Fan says. "People need the help of medical rehabilitation equipment. Currently, there is a gap between China and other countries in the medical rehabilitation industry. China needs to bring about innovative breakthroughs and have its own medical rehabilitation brands."