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A race to parenthood: IVF services in China

How important is the role played by foreign providers of IVF services in China?

              The market for IVF services in China is booming. IVF, which stands for “in vitro fertilization”, is a form of Assisted Reproductive Technology whereby the egg of a woman is fertilized by the male sperm outside the body before being injected into the womb for incubation. A procedure rising in popularity, China’s IVF market accounted for 670 million USD in 2016 and is expected to reach 1,5 billion USD by 2022. Currently the highest quality providers of IVF services come from abroad but the fast-growing demand from Chinese singles and couples is the key to foreign hospitals and clinics success on the Mainland.

Foreign healthcare companies are taking the lead in providing IVF services in China by adopting a “passive” business model, which is driven by partnerships with tour agents and referral offices. Tapping into this growing demand of IVF services in China has become a significant opportunity for foreign companies to investigate new  medical care markets.

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Foreign IVF providers are becoming more and more popular in China. Source: Baidu (百度).

Investing in IVF services in China means playing a leading role in assisting the next generation of Chinese parents who are demanding advanced IVF procedures. Some Chinese patients go for IVF because of conceiving problems or other health barriers. However, others choose IVF from foreign providers because they allow to carry out more complex procedures, such as identifying the sex of fetus, gender selection, surrogacy, use of gestational carrier, gamete and embryo donation, cytoplasmic and nuclear transfer, all of which are prohibited by the Law of Maternal and Infant Healthcare (中华人民共和国母婴保健法, 1995) and the Ethical Principles of Human Assisted Reproductive Technologies (人类辅助生殖技术中的伦理) in China.

Foreign providers of IVF services in China are at a competitive advantage in both quality of healthcare services and variety of supplied procedures. The Ministry of Health data (中华人民共和国国家卫生和计划生育委员会) show that Chinese IVF centers are often overburdened, with each IVF clinic in China serving around 3.8 million people. Foreign private hospitals also constitute a better alternative to the expensive and illegal clinics operating on the Chinese black market via social media, according to the Qiuyi Information Center (求医网新闻中心).

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Many foreign IVF providers are advertising their services on WeChat (微信) and Weibo (微博). Source: New Hope Fertility Center (新希望辅助生殖中心)


Chinese economic development puts Chinese parents to the test

When it comes to parenthood, the Chinese economic development has been a big factor in determining the shift of Chinese families towards IVF. The introduction of the China’s two-child policy in October 2015, the wish of Chinese women to have the chance to focus on their career first and on pregnancy later in their lives, or to have a child even as single parents, are all important factors behind the growth in demand for IVF services in China.

The changing lifestyle of the typical Chinese urban family, due to economic progress and globalization, has led many to delay marriage and having children, which, in general, makes it harder for couples to conceive naturally. Furthermore its been reported that males in high density urban areas now have a significant drop in sperm count because of high stress levels and pollution. It is noteworthy that the average marriage age in China was 23 in the 1970s, 24 in the 1990s and has increased up to 27 in the 21st century.

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Women reaching for IVF treatment in China are often over 40. Source: Baidu (百度).


Foreign top premium healthcare companies

As the demand for top notch medical care has increased in China, more foreign providers have stepped into the market to provide necessary services. Those who have already established themselves as top premium IVF providers include the following:

  • United Family Healthcare (和睦家医院) is an international integrated healthcare provider, sponsoring his personalized medical service in China through its 14 satellite clinics since 1997.
  • The New Hope Fertility Center (新希望辅助生殖中心), a leading IVF services provider based in U.S., works in collaboration with a referral office in Beijing (北京) and offers vitrification freezing treatments otherwise rare in China; Its website is fully translated in Chinese.
  • Virtus Health Ltd, a successful Australian company which offers IVF treatments, has a growing presence among IVF patients in Asia and works with touring agents in China sending them to its centers in Singapore. It has Chinese-speaking fertility doctors and nurses.

Being successful in the Chinese IVF market does not necessarily involve a direct presence in China. You can find success by marketing to Chinese patients from abroad.


Foreign providers of IVF services in China find success in “passive” business models

The “passive” business models of foreign hospitals and clinics have successfully attracted Chinese families. As opposed to an active presence on Chinese territory, passive business models are carried out by the means of tour agents and medical referral offices through advertisements about healthcare companies services. In many cases, the foreign hospital looks for referral agencies in China, asks for professional certifications and arranges seasonal meetings with potential patients. For example, Global Fertility & Genetics of New York has established a partnership with a multi-specialty hospital in Hainan (海南) and has opened its China headquarter at OASIS International Hospital of Beijing (北京明德医院).

To conclude, the Chinese IVF market is an one with significant potential. The provision of IVF services from abroad can make the parenthood dreams of Chinese families a reality. Furthermore, the introduction of IVF may be the bridge that allows other advanced medical procedures and specialized healthcare facilities to gain traction in China.

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Daxue Consulting’s Shanghai Office

Daxue Consulting can provide you support in entering the growing market of IVF services in China. We conduct all the market research and consulting services you may need, such as potential analysis, cost analysis, implementation feasibility and more. To learn more about the Chinese IVF market, do not hesitate to contact our dedicated project managers by email at dx@daxueconsulting.com.

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