HBI Deals+Insights / News

South to south will deliver

Healthcare services in markets such as Africa are likely to be delivered by Indian and Chinese companies, not Europeans and Americans. Here’s why.

It would be easy to assume that it will be the large Western international hospital chains and lab groups who will deliver healthcare to the rest of the world.

But apart from a few specialist niche markets such as dialysis and medicalised homecare, this is simply not going to happen. That partly reflects the much higher costs that Western operators are used to incurring. James Cercone at consultancy Sanigest says Indian and Chinese operators often have access to much cheaper drugs and medtech. He points to an Indian ophthalmologist in Rwanda who can buy lenses for $30. These cost $300-400 in Europe.

And we can already see this happening. Apart from Ramsay, which is in Indonesia and, soon, China, it is hard to think of a for-profit Western hospital operator that is active in the Developing world. Yet the big India operators are already active in the Gulf and are hard at work recruiting patients in Africa.

Indian lab chain Metropolis is already present in nearly a dozen African and Asian countries. Contrast that to the big European labs. Outside of the Middle East, their presence is limited to Unilabs, which has a small operation in Peru.

Cercone reckons that the Chinese will swiftly follow the Indian example. “At the moment they are still pouring concrete, the Chinese have only started to learn how to manage hospitals in the last five years, but that will change soon.”

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Max Hotopf or call 0207 183 3779.