Hong Kong is a cauldron of change. After many, many years of British rule, the islands return to China in 1997 brought social and economic upheaval, now apparent in the healthcare sector.
The medical device service market in Hong Kong is indicative of this changing sea. The healthcare system is primarily funded by the government. The Hospital Authority, established in 1990 to manage all public hospitals in Hong Kong, now has 44 hospitals under its jurisdiction. It provides the majority of patient care here and accounts for 70 percent of the equipment bought and used.
According to third-party biomed manager Linus Chu, all Hospital Authority facilities had been maintained by another government body the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD), Health Care Division. This recently changed when the Hospital Authoritys Radiation Emitting and Biomedical Equipment Section began taking over service at government hospitals and clinics. EMSD can be considered an in-house biomed program. There are few clinical engineers working in EMSD. Most biomeds are trained as electrical or mechanical engineers.
Private hospitals have been served by a mixture of in-house, manufacturers, and dealers like Chu. Through it all, there are familiar pressures to control healthcare costs.
Chu says manufacturer-offered multivendor service has arrived and it is creating more competition in the market, as well as and raising performance expectations at the public hospitals, currently home to more than 100 biomeds. The monopoly of EMSD is now challenged by GEs Clinical Service as it has just won a service contract here and is gaining rapid acceptance, Chu says. Though Philips and Siemens exist in Hong Kong, they are not real players yet.
The EMSD currently controls 70 percent of the service market. GE CSI holds about 10 percent and other manufacturers account for another 10 percent. The remainder is handled by various sources, including ISOs.
Hong Kong has not adopted the stringent regulations enacted on the mainland in April 2000. Hong Kong does not require general registration of imported medical devices. The requirement for medical devices importation is demonstration of adherence to product technical standards (usually British or internationally-recognized standards) as a prerequisite for sale to a government entity. Radiation-emitting equipment must be registered with the Radiation Health Unit of the Department of Health.