Executive summary

The digital transformation in healthcare is revolutionizing global practices and delivering safer, more efficient and more personalized healthcare services for patients. This transformation is a crucial direction in the global healthcare industry — not merely a trend in China. An operating room (OR) is a highly specialized space, a central hub where advanced technologies and skilled healthcare personnel converge to provide essential and impactful medical interventions. With the ongoing digital transformation, smart ORs are recognized for their effectiveness, safety, convenience and intelligence, and they are gradually becoming integral components of modern hospitals and intelligent healthcare. However, while the demand for smart ORs is growing, their development is still in the exploratory stage.

The Shanghai Digital Medicine Innovation Center, referred to simply as the Innovation Center, which was established with the approval of the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government and guided by the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, serves as an institutional platform within the affiliated Ruijin Hospital of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine. The Innovation Center is deeply engaged in exploring the latest trends in digital medicine on a global scale. It’s not just about research. The center is actively building a cutting-edge platform for digital medicine innovation, propelling healthcare into the digital era. This in turn contributes to Shanghai’s commitment to realizing its national strategy of “establishing a tech innovation hub with global impact.” The construction and management of smart ORs in China are among the various initiatives associated with this transformation and have become topics of significant interest in the industry. In 2023, the Innovation Center teamed up with L.E.K. Consulting to delve into the future landscape of hospitals and drive the advancement of smart ORs in China. The decision was then made to craft a detailed white paper on the development and practices of these smart ORs. This white paper aims to thoroughly examine the development trajectory, current development status and future trends of smart ORs in China, laying a solid foundation for the establishment of standards and widespread application across the country.

Preparation for this project drew on invaluable wisdom from industry veterans, involved extensive research and included conducting vital, informative conversations with more than 20 experts. Our approach extended to a detailed examination of advanced cases within and beyond China’s borders. To ensure a holistic perspective, we carefully analyzed 162 valid survey responses, focusing on a diverse range of healthcare institutions. The surveyed professionals, predominantly from level-2 and level-3 hospitals, represented a wide spectrum of roles, including hospital leaders as well as IT department, anesthesiology, clinical unit and nursing staff. With this white paper, our goal is to provide industry insiders with a deep dive into the current landscape and possible future trajectories of smart ORs in China. And we hope to provide practical knowledge, discernment and references to assist hospitals that are gearing up to construct smart ORs. Beyond that, we are looking forward to sparking meaningful discussions among industry players about shaping standards, configuring hardware and software, and driving the widespread use of smart ORs in China.

In this white paper, we discuss the evolution of smart ORs in China from the perspective of hospitals, defining and dissecting their core functionalities. Furthermore, we dig in to their penetration into domestic medical institutions. Our analysis offers a thorough examination of the ecosystem, unraveling the competitive landscape and providing a look at key factors hospitals must consider during procurement. All this is geared toward assisting hospitals that are considering constructing smart ORs. The development of smart ORs in China currently faces numerous challenges and issues. However, with continued technological advancements and the sustained growth of the industry, smart ORs are poised to become a crucial focal point in the future landscape of intelligent healthcare facilities.

Additionally, we gathered cases from leading smart ORs — both domestic and international — to learn from their successful practices and experiences in project planning, hardware/software configurations and application rollouts. These cases can serve as valuable benchmarks for constructing and promoting smart ORs in China. Finally, we look at some anticipated future development trends of smart ORs in China, from various aspects such as operational demands, technical needs, business models and policy support.

This white paper brings together knowledge and practical insights from both within and outside the industry, aiming to provide robust support for the development of intelligent healthcare in China. We believe in-depth research into and comprehensive analysis of the smart OR space will contribute to further innovation and application in the digital medicine field, enhance the quality of healthcare services in China and create a better experience for patients and healthcare professionals alike.

Editor’s note: The pdf download of the report is available in Chinese only.

L.E.K. Consulting is a registered trademark of L.E.K. Consulting LLC. All other products and brands mentioned in this document are properties of their respective owners. © 2023 L.E.K. Consulting LLC

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