Cooperation with hospitals is crucial
Recently, Korea’s advanced medical technology and hospital information system received international recognition. Seoul National University (SNU) beat out Johns Hopkins Hospital and other world-class institutions for a five-year contract as the consignment manager of the UAE Royal Sheikh Khalifa Specialty Hospital. The contract is for an import of a 1 trillion won ($891.5 million) management system.
The medical device industry is a convergent field, integrating clinical medicine with electronic, electric, mechanical, material and optical science. As an aging population and economic growth lead to an increased interest in health and a focus on treatment and preventative medicine, the medical device industry and related markets have garnered more attention.
In fact, the medical device industry is recognized as a high added-value industry. The global medical instrument market is 349 trillion won at present and is expected to grow to 510 trillion won by 2018. Korea already has the world’s top electronics industry and its ninth-largest mechanical industry, and the growth potential is solidly bolstered by an outstanding foundation. But despite this growth potential, only 13.8 percent of instruments used at medical institutes and general hospitals are made in Korea. Most of them rely on imported devices, and 100 percent of high-end devices are foreign.
Due to excessive competition among small businesses vying over a limited domestic market and a shortage of research and development professionals, many projects do not materialize into usable technology or products and remain as studies. The actual users of these medical devices are university professors, who spend most of their time caring for patients and training doctors; and it’s hard for them to proactively participate in the research and development process from project planning, presentation, review and test reports. Considering the reality, a successful model for Korean medical instruments can be made through a partnership with the hospitals that need such devices for technology and product development. In order to secure confidence in quality, Korean medical instrument makers need to expand their shares in the domestic market and aggressively pursue overseas expansion. If Korean companies work with hospitals and make efforts to develop products that reflect the clinical needs of their users, they will be able to develop products that are more safe and effective than imported goods. As the global medical market rapidly expands, let’s hope Korea’s medical instrument manufacturers become the representative.
*Lee Ki-sup, chairman and president of the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology