The Philippines has been making significant strides in MedTech development, largely due to a firm commitment from its Department of Science and Technology (DOST). While this announcement was made last year in the depths of the global pandemic, this push will undoubtedly shape the Philippines’ economy for quite some time. We take a look at the problems the Philippines has traditionally faced and its plans for its rapid advancement and expansion in MedTech.
What Is Medtech?
Broadly speaking, medical technology, or MedTech, covers any technology that is used for medical purposes. This can include everything like simple devices like crutches and wheelchairs, but these days it’s more likely to be to more complex equipment like MRI machines and ventilators.
The MedTech industry is already worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and it’s growing rapidly. In fact, the global MedTech market is expected to exceed a staggering US$500 billion as soon as this year. If for nothing else but the enormous market size, this represents a massive opportunity for the Philippines.
The Long-Standing State of Medtech in the Philippines
The Philippines currently has an objectively minuscule share of the global MedTech market, despite having over 100 million residents. Add to that the rapidly aging local population that will require advancements in medical care, and it becomes quickly apparent that the Philippines has some ground to make up.
As it stands, most medical devices and equipment used in the Philippines are imported. In fact, medical equipment is almost 100 percent imported, and medical disposables are about 50 percent imported. The high import dependence means that the Philippines is highly vulnerable to global market fluctuations.
There is also the issue of local talent. The Philippines has a number of world-class universities and colleges, but the talent is not always utilized in the local medical sector. The vast majority of Filipino medical graduates choose to work abroad, where they can earn significantly higher salaries.
By acknowledging and rectifying these issues, the Philippines has put itself in a solid position to rapidly develop its MedTech industry, and it’s now projected that it will take close to US$2.5 billion of the global sector by 2025.
The Plan for MedTech Expansion in the Philippines
As announced in August of 2021, DOST has created a number of strategic plans for the advancement of MedTech in the Philippines.
Development of Biomedical Equipment
First and foremost, DOST is focused on the development of biomedical equipment through its Biomedical Devices for Health Programme. This includes the development of locally-made medical devices and equipment, such as the Insole, a pressure sensing system aimed at thwarting foot ulcers, the Ginhawa ventilator, and the Agapay robotic exoskeleton for rehabilitation.
These projects are geared towards not only the development but also the localization of the technology. That is, making sure that the equipment and devices are designed to meet the specific needs of the Philippine market and not just the global market.
Expansion of Medtech Research and Development
In order to ensure that the Philippines can maintain a strong foothold in the MedTech industry, DOST is also focused on expanding research and development (R&D) in the sector. Local talent will be directed to research and develop technology like improved primary healthcare provision, post-operative or rehabilitative medicine, less invasive surgical devices, disease research simulation platforms, and emergency medical response devices.
A total of approximately US$21 million has been set aside for these long-term research initiatives, including capacity-building measures for researchers, regulatory agency collaborators, and technology transfer and commercialization support.
Establishing MedTech Partnerships
In order to achieve its goals in a highly competitive environment, DOST is also keen on creating partnerships with both the public and private sectors.
Collaboration with technology developers, such as academics, healthcare, and manufacturing organizations, that can assist in the clinical evaluation and commercialization of R&D items will be a crucial factor in their success.
The Philippine Government has taken proactive steps to help the Philippines become a significant player in MedTech. They are focused on developing and commercializing locally-made equipment, research, partnerships with technology developers, capacity building for researchers and regulatory agency collaborators, and establishing measures for post-operative or rehabilitative medicine. The success of these initiatives will be crucial in putting the Philippines on the map as a major Medtech innovation hub.
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Frequently Asked Questions About MedTech in the Philippines
- Medical technology, or MedTech, covers any technology that is used for medical purposes. This can include everything like simple devices like crutches and wheelchairs, but these days it's more likely to be to more complex equipment like MRI machines and ventilators.
- Due to shortages in some skilled occupations, there is a very high demand for medical technologists in the Philippines.
- The Philippine Government has created a number of strategic plans for the advancement of MedTech in the Philippines, centering around the following objectives:
- Development of cutting-edge Biomedical Equipment
- Expansion of Medtech Research and Development
- Establishing MedTech Partnerships