China’s healthcare industry

The healthcare market in China includes products and services related to maintenance, restoration and enhancement of health. It mainly consists of five segments:  retail of pharmaceuticals; retail of non-medicinal health products;  medical and health services;  cosmetic medical services; and  medical and health infrastructure. According to statistics of the Ministry of Health, healthcare market in China has shown an upward trend from 2010 to 2019, and the growth rate has remained above 10%. In 2019, China’s total health financing increased and the personal burden of residents’ medical and health expenses was relatively reduced.

Daxue Consulting has deep experience in healthcare market research for companies engaged in health insurance in China and the production of vitamins and supplements. Our healthcare industry projects have included distributor analysis to find the best way to reach consumers, social media listening and surveys on health perceptions in China

Data of National Bureau of Statistics show that the total national health expenditure in 2019 reached 651 billion yuan. Among them, government health expenditure was 174 billion yuan, accounting for 26.7%. Social health expenditure was 292 billion yuan, accounting for 44.9%, while personal health expenditure was 184 billion yuan, accounting for 28.4%. The total per capita health expenditure is 4656.7 yuan, and the total health expenditure accounts for 6.6% of GDP. 

China’s total health expenditure grew in 2020, reaching approximately 7.2 trillion yuan. Forecasts expect it to be around 8 trillion yuan in 2021, an increase of 8.1%.

With the acceleration of industrialization, urbanization, and population aging, the disease spectrum of Chinese residents is constantly changing. Digital technologies such as the Internet, artificial intelligence, and big data have received much attention as effective technical means to improve the level of medical and health services.

Although China’s medical expenditures are large in scale, due to the large population of our country, the number of medical resources per capita is far behind that of well-developed Western countries. 

In recent years, medical technology capabilities of the healthcare market in China have improved significantly. From 2010 to 2020, the number of medical institutions in China showed an overall growth. As of the end of December 2020, the number of health institutions nationwide reached 1 million, an increase of approximately 15,400 compared to December 2019, a year-on-year increase of 1.5%.

From the perspective of the main types of medical institutions in China, the number of hospitals and primary medical institutions has shown an overall upward trend from 2014 to 2020. At the end of 2020, the largest number of medical institutions in China was primary medical institutions, with approximately 971,000 existing, accounting for 94.9%, followed by hospitals, with a total of approximately 35,000 at the end of 2020, lastly, professional public health institutions, with a total of approximately 14,000 thousand.

China’s pharmaceutical market is the second largest in the world. The size of pharmaceutical market in China has grown from 1.2 trillion yuan in 2015 to 1,6 trillion yuan in 2019, with a compound growth rate of 7.5%. It further expanded in 2020, and the market size reached 1.7 trillion yuan.

From the perspective of market structure, the segment with the largest share of China’s pharmaceutical market is chemical drugs, accounting for 50.2%. National Bureau of Statistics shows that the size of the chemical drug market reached 819 billion yuan in 2019, and expanded to 835 billion yuan in 2020. It was followed by the traditional Chinese medicine market, which reached 502 billion yuan in 2019, accounting for 30.7%. The market size of bio supplements in 2019 was 312 billion yuan, accounting for 19.1%, and the market size grew to 369.7 billion yuan in 2020.

At present, healthcare market in China is still in the early stages of digitalization. In 2019, only 2.4% of medical products in China were through online retail pharmacies. Similarly, in 2019, in terms of patient visits in China, online consultation accounted for 6% of total consultations. In addition, in 2019, the scale of China’s digital health market was 218 billion yuan, and the digital proportion of the health market accounted for 3.3% of China’s total health expenditure.

Online consultation generally covers consultation and prescription renewal, follow-up visits, hospital appointments and chronic disease management. The COVID-19 epidemic has not only increased health awareness, but also increased the acceptance of these services.  Consequently, it enabled Chinese consumers to develop a long-term habit of using online consultations.

Since 2016, companies, which related to VR technology in China have shown a stable growth. The advent of the new era of 5G will give VR more stable technical support and broader application scenarios. Nowadays, the pace of development of some innovative companies is not limited to physical devices and small accessories, but also includes VR technology in the medical field. By 2025, medical VR technology in China will exceed US$5 billion.

As China’s per capita income rises, the demand for medical beauty increases. Daily skin care, anti-acne and freckles operations have become affordable for the Chinese people.

In recent years, the medical beauty market in China has developed rapidly, a large number of institutions have emerged. 2018 was a turning point in the medical beauty market. A large number of small and medium-sized institutions faced problems such as difficulty in profitability, and the market showed a state of mismatch between supply and demand. In 2019, the scale of China’s medical beauty market reached 176 billion yuan, and the growth rate slowed to 22.2%. However, as these services are becoming more affordable, the market size of the medical beauty industry continues to grow and will reach 227 billion yuan in 2021.

With the improvement of the living standards of Chinese residents, the demand for medical devices continues to grow. The size of China’s medical device market in 2020 was 734 billion yuan, and the compound annual growth rate from 2016 to 2020 was 18.7%. It far exceeds the growth rate of the global medical device market. China Commercial Industry Research Institute predicts that China’s medical device market will reach 834.7 billion yuan in 2021.

Insights on China's healthcare industry