Without any doubt: The further improvement of the healthcare infrastructure in many Asian countries is one of the big megatrends of the coming years. To benefit from this promising trend, medtech companies need to develop a nuanced understanding of the individual markets and the crucial socio-economic and technological developments. We have asked Ms. Elisabeth Staudinger – President of Asia Pacific at Siemens Healthineers – to share some of her in-depth insights with us.
Ms. Staudinger, your company is a full-service provider of medical technology and solutions. How has the demand for your products in the Asia Pacific region developed over recent years? What are the core markets in the region for you?
Asia Pacific is home to more than 50% of the global population and accounts for nearly two thirds of the global disease burden from major chronic diseases. An estimated 1.1 billion people are expected to be 50 years or older by the year 2025. This results in a high demand for healthcare and strong pressure on healthcare systems which is further exacerbated by a lack of skilled medical professionals. At the same time, more than 50% of the global market growth is in Asia. China and India are especially driven by these megatrends, which offer growth opportunities for medtech providers.
In the field of medical technology and healthcare provision, are there any general or more specific trends you can identify in single countries or sub-regions of Asia Pacific that could indicate future market opportunities for your products?
There are tremendous growth opportunities not only in India and China but also in many ASEAN countries. As mentioned above, the supply of skilled medical professionals is low and it is especially low in rural areas. According to World Bank data, in India, for example, 65% of the population lives in rural areas, while only 2% of doctors are available in the countryside. Improving access to care is a key focus in countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Digital technologies and big data will play a key role in tackling these challenges. Tele-consultancy is one example, where cost can be saved and access increased. Connecting digitally saves travel time, costs and burden for the patient who may not be fit to travel in the first place. A patient may be scanned on a CT scanner in a remote area while a skilled doctor elsewhere could then evaluate the data. These remote solutions are not only relevant in the countries mentioned above but also in very mature markets like Japan.
Being a high-quality medical device company, it is necessary for you to be as close as possible to the needs of your customers. What is your strategy to ensure long-term successful business with your Asian customers? Does the strategy differ from those in other regions of the world?
We are uniquely positioned to address the challenges healthcare providers are currently facing. Whether in Asia or other regions of the world, it is safe to say that every health system struggles with rising costs and varying quality. We understand that the success of a healthcare provider depends on improving outcomes and lowering costs. We aim to be THE longterm trusted strategic partner and are convinced that transformational changes will make it possible to increase value. We believe the future of healthcare, given today’s market dynamics, will reflect the following: Medicine will be more precise and affordable. Value will be at the heart of care delivery. Patients will be treated as consumers. Healthcare will be digital. Nevertheless, we do have tailored strategies in place for different regions. For example, we are developing China-specific products and solutions to meet Chinese customers’ unique needs. For India, we are answering the increasing demand for entry-level products, driven by the government of India’s plans for improving access to healthcare. In addition, we have a direct presence in more than 70 countries worldwide. More than 90% of the global top 100 healthcare providers partner with Siemens. This helps us to stay close to our customer needs.
What is the competitive situation in the various Asian markets? Which specific service and quality requirements do you have to fulfill in these regions?
There are a few global players that are active in all markets. Larger markets like Japan, China and now also India have emerging local companies. Within our region, we have growth markets and developed markets; the traditional medical devices and the vibrant digital space with start-up companies as well as the private and the public sector. The region is diverse, and the healthcare industry is getting increasingly more dynamic. Due to our global presence, we understand the unique challenges and pressures that apply in every country where we are doing business. In general, customers’ needs are evolving due to the market consolidation and industrialization and they require appropriate technology tailored to their needs. Service and quality need to be consistent across the region, especially with larger healthcare networks that are expanding across the region. Overall, there is a growing demand for partnerships. As healthcare systems are getting more complex, providers don’t just want a technology vendor, they want a true partner who can advise them on how to best serve patients’ needs now and in the future.
In many countries the local governments expect foreign companies to build production facilities in their countries to boost national economic development. Do you have production facilities in Asia Pacific or are you planning to build them?
Within Asia Pacific we not only have production facilities in China, India, Korea and Japan, but more importantly, we also have centers for Research and Development. In China, we have been present with manufacturing facilities in Shanghai since 1992 and since 2002 in Shenzhen. In 2019, we set up a new manufacturing facility in Bengaluru collocated with our R&D center, which has grown into a software digital hub over the years. Also, we have recently decided to invest 3 billion RMB into a new assay manufacturing plant in China.
There has been much talk in recent months of geopolitical upheavals and escalating trade conflicts. How important are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) for your daily operations? What do you expect from German politics and business associations to substantially support your activities?
As a leading medtech company, with significant operations on a global level, we keep a close eye on these developments. Fortunately, with our global network of production sites, we can mitigate the situation up to a certain extent. Nevertheless, our wish towards governments worldwide is that they return to negotiating partnerships within the framework of a fair-trade policy. This is for the benefit of all because international trade provides access to high-quality products at fair prices. Business associations have an important role as a sparring partner and consultant for politics to support this negotiation process. Healthcare delivery requires the collaboration of many stakeholders, and together, we can contribute to enabling healthcare providers to provide high-value care.