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Cracking China’s medical market takes savvy

By: Angie DeRosa

January 14, 2013

An expert on China is encouraging medical-device manufacturers to know the lay of the land, literally, and educate themselves on precise cultural nuances before tackling the world’s fastest-growing market.

Mike Corkran, CEO and founder of China Centric Associates, based in Beachwood, Ohio, provided details during “Medical Devices in China: Designing and Selling into the World’s Largest Market.” The Nov. 14 conference was held at SmartShape Design Corp. in Cleveland.

The No. 1 cause of business problems in China is exporting Western business practices without modification and expecting success. “You have to think about China being more like Europe,” he said. “It’s a series of regional, interconnected markets. But someone from Guangzhou trying to sell to Beijing, it’s a different language, different ways, different culture, etc.”

China will offer the best opportunities for growth among emerging markets with major changes in consumer lifestyles and the need for quality health-care services. Health care is a national policy priority in China’s latest five-year plan (2011-15). In the macroeconomic outlook, the World Bank is projecting 8 percent compounded annual growth in gross domestic product through 2015.

The goal is to improve the national quality and access to health care. China is low in World Health Organization rankings and its growing middle class is demanding better service. There is aggressive improvement in the adoption of advanced technology and procedural methods. Its overall medical equipment industry is expected to reach $60 billion by 2016.

Players need to know that they will have to deal with the State Food and Drug Administration, China’s version of the Food and Drug Administration. They also need to appoint legal and after-sales agents in China to coordinate and control a firm’s SFDA device registrations. “You have to create a legal entity or find a partner who has a legal entity and platform,” Corkran advised.

Manufacturers also have to be aware of cultural preferences, said Mike Maczuzak, president of SmartShape and a designer. For example, when it comes to display panels or instructions that appear on medical equipment, Chinese users perform better with a vertical layout.

“A Chinese user who reads vertically may expect important information to be in the vertical right quadrant,” Maczuzak said. In hand-held devices, he added, manufacturers should know that designing for the appropriate hand size can make or break a product.

China Centric’s Corkran will speak at Plastics News’ Plastics in Medical Devices conference, to be held May 13-15 in Waltham, Mass.