The rehabilitation robot can provide effective assistive training, reduce the number of carers needed, and ease the contradiction between supply and demand in rehabilitation resources. The industry developed rapidly around 2016 and has now entered an expansion period. At the same time, robots of some enterprises have obtained medical device licenses, and rehabilitation robots in the future will have more possibilities in application scenarios with huge growth space.
With the rapid development of information technology, traditional medical devices are constantly developing in the direction of intelligence. In comparison, medical robots are the development results of multiple disciplines and are widely used in medical diagnosis and treatment, clinical surgery, rehabilitation medicine and other related medical fields. The number of patients with motor or cognitive dysfunction caused by stroke or other diseases has significantly increased due to the aging of our society. As a medical robot used in rehabilitation, a rehabilitation robot can help patients with motor or cognitive function training, which to some extent solves the problems of fatigue syndrome and training standardization problems. In recent years, the demand has gradually increased.
A rehabilitation robot is a kind of equipment that assists patients with dysfunction to live or has a therapeutic effect. In terms of functional therapy, the rehabilitation robot integrates motor nerve rehabilitation therapy technology with the robot to improve the clinical rehabilitation effect. In addition, with the continuous development of electromechanical interaction, intelligent control and human-computer interaction, most rehabilitation robots have integrated evaluation and treatment feedback systems. Patients who complete multi-joint or single-joint rehabilitation training in the virtual computing environment can advance faster in the improvement of motor function. In daily life assistance, more and more rehabilitation robots are widely used in walking assistance, diet assistance and personal health care.
Market analysis of rehabilitation robots
A large number of people in need
With the deepening of the population aging problem, the number of elderly and people with chronic diseases is expanding, and the demand for rehabilitation medicine is increasing.
According to the China Health Statistics Yearbook 2020 and the data published on the website of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, in 2020, there were 264 million older adults over 60 years old in China. About 50% of them need rehabilitation treatment. In 2018, China's chronic disease population was 485 million, of which about 80% required rehabilitation. Discharged patients with disease and injury in China was 183 million in 2020. There were 85 million people with disabilities and 68 million of them with rehabilitation needs.
Although there are overlaps and transformations among these groups, it can be seen that there is a large number of people with rehabilitation needs in China.
The improvement of residents' consumption ability and health awareness
In 2021, Chinese residents' per capita domestic GDP reached CNY 80976. As the economy develops, the residents' health awareness tends to increase and the awareness of rehabilitation has gradually improved. The elderly are the key target population for rehabilitation. According to the Research on China's Aging Industry Development and Indicator System (2018-2050), Chinese elderly consumers will contribute CNY 119340-15514.2 billion expense in 2030. This change will also strengthen the development of elderly and chronic disease rehabilitation.
Insufficient rehabilitation professionals
Although the number of rehabilitation physicians has generally increased since 2012, the personnel ratio in 2020 was 3.4 persons/100000 people, far from the target value of 6 persons/100000 population set by the Chinese government.
The market size of rehabilitation robot
According to the Report on Medical Service and Quality Safety of National Rehabilitation Medicine (2019), in the investigation of 7544 comprehensive hospitals, only 2147 are equipped with rehabilitation wards, accounting for only 28 46%. It is estimated that 3813 hospitals were equipped with rehabilitation wards in 2020.
Since 2012, the number of private rehabilitation-specialized medical institutions in China has increased rapidly, becoming the main growth driver of rehabilitation medical resources. By 2020, the number of private specialized rehabilitation institutions in China has reached 573.
By the end of 2021, the China Disabled Persons' Federation announced that there were 10440 rehabilitation institutions for the disabled in China. According to the proportion of physical disability in the total number of disabled people, there are about 5258 rehabilitation institutions for physical disability.
At present, China has 13400 secondary and tertiary hospitals. Assuming that 50% of them will set up rehabilitation departments in the future, the number of comprehensive hospitals with rehabilitation departments in China will be 6700. In 2020, China had 573 private specialized rehabilitation institutions; by the end of 2021, the number of physical disability rehabilitation service institutions was about 5258. Assuming that the rehabilitation department of each healthcare institution is equipped with at least one upper limb rehabilitation training robot and one lower limb rehabilitation training robot. In this case, the demand for rehabilitation robots in China will reach 25062, and the price of a single rehabilitation training robot is about CNY 200k to 300k. This means the current market for rehabilitation robots in China's rehabilitation training institutions is CNY 5 to 7.5 billion.
Gu Jie, the CEO of Fourier Intelligence (Chinese: 傅利叶智能), speculates that the market demand for rehabilitation will be greater. In his vision, the future township community hospitals will establish rehabilitation departments to provide rehabilitation services.
Moreover, in the future, rehabilitation robots will face consumers directly. Some wearable products that can improve the life quality of consumers, such as those equipped with hand training, grasping and other functions, are the markets where rehabilitation robots can be deployed. In theory, the direct-to-consumer market will be at least one order of magnitude larger than to business, which is at least 10 times larger, reaching a CNY 100 billion market.
Prospects and future development trends
Currently, China's computer and robot control technology are at the world's most advanced level, which has paved the way for developing rehabilitation robots. For example, Gu believes that China's rehabilitation robots have taken the lead in the world, which is driven by technology as well as China's unique medical environment. For developed countries, the rehabilitation system is mature, and there are enough therapists. A few years ago, the rehabilitation robot was only used as a substitute for human beings due to a lack of therapeutic function. In addition, the high price led to a lower purchase willingness among institutions, and the flagging market resulted in insufficient R&D motivation.
As regards developing a rehabilitation robot in the next 3-5 years, Gu said that its iteration and deployment speed has been accelerated in recent years. On the product side, Gu thinks that in the future, many customers may have a personal rehabilitation training robot or some novel robots to help them complete daily rehabilitation training at home. Other assistive devices will also enable patients to improve the quality of their life from home.
Moreover, rehabilitation robots will develop into a kind of service, namely robots as a service, just like the software subscription fees that people are used to paying. Subscription-based mode is the trend. In the future, the service robots provide will be paid monthly. In other words, consumers will pay robot usage costs to the robot manufacturers.
Gu admitted that it would take a little time. Just like full self-driving capability subscriptions launched by Tesla, robots are the same. For example, it used to cost CNY 10k to recruit a therapist. Instead, institutions can pay the robot manufacturer CNY 2000 per month to use a robot. Gu also has his own unique point of view on commercialization issues that all industries cannot circumvent. He believes that robots, as a form of service, represent an inevitable trend.