On 24 August, Irénée Robin, director and co-founder of VVR Medical, took part in the “New Tech Applied In China’s Healthcare Industry” round table organised by La French Tech Shanghai.
This article looks back at Irénée’s speech, during which he shared advice for medical technology companies wishing to succeed in the Chinese market. Passionate about the latest advances in the field, Irénée also spoke about recent innovations that have caught his attention, arousing fascination and hope, such as the use of virtual reality software to replace drugs in the treatment of central nervous system pathologies (such as pain or certain phobias)!
Irénée Robin began by sharing his expertise on the regulatory registration process for highly innovative products. He explained how to interact with the Chinese regulator (NMPA) when it comes to submitting marketing authorisation applications for technologies that are still unknown to them. In such cases, the procedures are long and complex, and the application for authorisation is not always validated, which is why it is advisable to enlist the help of an expert to maximise the chances of success.
Irénée Robin then insisted on the need to carry out an evaluation of his technology before initiating the registration procedures with a view to setting up a distribution network on the Chinese market. According to our expert, it is essential to test your product or service against a series of questions to determine whether it meets the needs of the Chinese medical sector and whether it is suitable for integration into the local market. Indeed, before taking the plunge, it is crucial to ensure that your product or service offers an improvement in solving a specific problem:
- For patients (improved standard of care, diagnosis, prophylaxis, etc.)
- For practitioners (facilitating or accelerating diagnosis, outpatient vs. inpatient care, clinical decision support, etc.)
- For hospitals (lower costs, easier patient flow, synergies between departments, better use of local dispensaries or “points of care”, etc.)
- To solve a major public health problem for the Chinese government (increase in home care, medico-economic impact, etc.).
In some cases, technology can provide solutions or improvements at different levels. For example, an innovation that makes it possible to diagnose certain illnesses at an early stage is a step forward for patients, as it means they can be treated less severely. It can also reduce the cost and duration of treatment for hospitals. Lastly, it can reduce the prevalence of certain diseases in the population, ultimately enabling the medical system to make savings on a national scale.
According to Irénée Robin, it is essential to be able to qualify and even measure precisely the impact that the product or service will have in solving the problem, and to identify who will benefit from this improvement. What’s more, it’s not just a question of introducing technology into healthcare to be considered a medical innovation. In fact, it is by combining technology, clinical skills and an understanding of care pathways (which are often complex and impossible to change in depth) that products and services acquire added value and revolutionise the medical sector. Medical innovation must meet the real expectations of patients and practitioners. Irénée Robin concluded by pointing out that the greatest successes in health tech are achieved by relying on multidisciplinary teams at every stage of research and development.
To sum up, before entering the Chinese market, you need to :
- Identify and qualify the precise improvement that the product or service will bring to the Chinese healthcare sector;
- Take account of the entire care chain and rely on an interdisciplinary team right from the development phase;
- Supporting innovation with knowledge of how the medical world works and the issues specific to the sector in China.
In the second part of his speech, Irénée Robin took a closer look at Franco-Chinese collaboration in the health tech sector. In his view, the best strategy for success in the Chinese market would be to retain all the research and development of product innovation in France, and to draw on the strengths of a Chinese partner to scale up and market innovations developed outside China throughout China. “The best alliances are those that play to the strengths of the partners, not those that aim to correct their weaknesses”.