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A rural doctor demonstrates the use of medical apparatus in Hefei, Anhui province. The multinational company, GE Healthcare, has targeted China's rural market. [Photo / China Daily]
Beijing - The multinational medical devices and solutions provider GE Healthcare said it will provide products and services to more than 7,000 county-level hospitals - also known as grassroots facilities - within three years.
The company will also make the services and products available to around 50,000 community healthcare service centers and clinics in villages and towns throughout China.
The move is aimed at integrating the company's healthcare resources and aiding expansion in the huge grassroots market, according to Rachel Duan, president and chief executive officer of GE Healthcare China.
"The initiative will be carried out during the next three years and we hope it will help with upgrading medical equipment and improving diagnostic skills at grassroots hospitals," said Duan.
The company has surveyed more than 8,000 county-level medical institutions during the past few months. The responses indicated that the facilities are interested in buying branded products from reputable manufacturers.
"The feedback from the grassroots market is good. People are interested in knowing more about our products," said Duan.
She said decision-makers at the facilities have been paying increasing attention to the quality, safety and reliability of medical devices in recent years.
"Price is not the only factor affecting decisions in the grassroots market," said Duan.
The company says it will focus on four main objectives for the program over the next three years.
It will introduce about 20 new products suitable for grassroots medical institutions and establish a new direct-sales team with a staff of 500.
GE Healthcare will also establish advanced platforms for information-sharing technologies, and improve its after-sales service.
"It will be a vast investment for GE Healthcare," said Duan, who declined to reveal the exact figures.
The company's grassroots program complements the Chinese government's three-year reform of the medical system, which was launched in January 2009 and has cost 850 billion yuan ($129 billion). The central government aims to expand access to healthcare throughout the country, especially in underdeveloped rural areas.
Duan acknowledged that one of the biggest challenges centers on the difficulty of developing products that are most suitable for the grassroots market. She said the market can be divided into a number of segments, meaning that different medical institutions will have different requirements.
To strengthen its after-sales services and better serve hospitals located in remote areas, GE Healthcare will set up several maintenance centers around the country, and online services will also be available. "We hope to be able to provide a response to our customers within 48 hours." said Duan.