Economic and political uncertainties in a number of the traditional high-growth markets have led to medical device manufacturers seeking new market growth opportunities. Weaker currencies have hit sales of medical imaging equipment, both X-ray and ultrasound systems, in Latin America. The Brazilian market has been most affected, with growth in this market slowing noticeably. Previously, strong growth in sales of medical imaging equipment in Russia had been expected; however, the currently weak economy and political factors have halted growth in this market, for non-domestic manufacturers in particular. The Chinese market for medical imaging equipment has be one of the world’s fastest growing in recent years, because of high levels of healthcare investment. The slow-down in economic growth and the Chinese government’s continued support of local medical device manufacturers have resulted in some uncertainty in short-term growth for multi-national suppliers of medical imaging systems; however, in the longer term, faster market growth is expected to return.
Manufacturers of medical imaging equipment are searching for new high-growth opportunities as a result of these factors and of continued pressure on healthcare spending in many of developed countries. This search has centered on Iran.
International economic sanctions on Iran were lifted at the beginning of 2016, allowing Iran’s oil to be sold internationally and international trade, including that of medical imaging equipment, to be resumed. Iran has a large population, 78 million, with a high proportion of well-educated doctors and radiologists demanding high quality medical imaging equipment. Demand for much of the lower-end medical imaging equipment in Iran has been fulfilled by suppliers, many based in the Asia Pacific region, offering lower cost solutions with less functionality. The higher-end market segments for medical imaging in Iran have remained largely under-served, yet with the strong demand for high-quality systems and the revenue gained from international oil sales, the high-end medical imaging equipment market now holds the most potential. As regards the X-ray market in Iran, FPD (flat panel detector) digital systems with advanced functionality and supporting high levels of patient throughput are being purchased. Larger, multi-national suppliers that are well-known and have a reputation for providing high quality equipment are expected to be most successful in harnessing Iran’s growth potential.
Although economic and political factors continue to affect the medical imaging markets in countries such as Brazil, China and Russia, and restricted healthcare budgets remain in much of Europe and North America, hope will rest on Iran to fill at least some of the void in market opportunity.