Asia market fuels hospital growth

Economy February 14, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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The Asia-Pacific market's vibrancy has particularly aided the healthcare industry, where private hospitals are looking to make the most of this trend by investing in assistive technologies, according to a survey by Frost & Sullivan.

Higher disposable incomes, deeper penetration of health insurance, and improvement in the overall quality of life have created a huge demand for quality healthcare services, the consultancy said. Therefore, there is rising interest in efficient and patient-safety treatment protocols that can be achieved using image-guided surgery (IGS) and robot-assisted surgery (RAS). 
A new analysis from Frost & Sullivan, “Image-Guided and Robot-Assisted Surgery Market in Asia-Pacific”, finds that the market earned revenues of US$217.4 million (Bt7.08 billion) last year and estimates this will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 22.1 per cent to reach $590.4 million in 2018. 
“In Asia-Pacific, there has been a steady inflow of medical tourists requiring surgical interventions for non-communicable diseases,” said Frost & Sullivan healthcare consultant Poornima Srinivasan. “Faster recovery, accuracy and precision are vital for early discharge, and these create a strong case for IGS and RAS products.” 
IGS and RAS have found higher acceptance in recent years due to their application in surgeries for multi-anatomical diseases. IGS systems, which were initially designed for neurological applications, are currently used in orthopaedic, cardiac, ENT (ear, nose and throat), dental and spinal surgeries. Similarly, RAS applications have extended from prostate surgeries to cardiac, orthopaedic and spinal, among others. 
Of the two, IGS has proved more popular, finding substantial deployment across most Asia-Pacific countries over the past five years. RAS is likely to remain the reserve of top-tier hospitals, mostly in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea; Australia’s adoption rates have been moderate, while Southeast Asia is still in the initial stages of adoption. 
However, the hefty prices peg the market back to some extent. Healthcare stakeholders in this region tend to be conservative investors and are reluctant to spend on expensive equipment and manufacturer-specific consumables. With IGS systems priced at $250,000 and RAS systems between $1 million and $3 million, product promoters will have their task cut out. 
Reimbursement is another issue. While developing countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines do not even offer reimbursement for IGS and RAS products, the amounts reimbursed in Australia, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are often negligible. 
“Nevertheless, considering the product benefits and the technologies’ acceptance, finding a cost-competitive and efficient distribution strategy will increase penetration and generate good adoption,” Srinivasan said.