Poland, the sixth largest country in the European Union with a population of 38 million people, represents one of the biggest health care markets in Central/Eastern Europe. That stated, the health care sector in Poland has been in a somewhat challenging financial condition of late, and the short-term outlook remains tentative. Since 1999, the health care sector has gone through several unsuccessful attempts at reform. Each successive Polish Minister of Health has urgently tried to implement major changes to the existing Health Care Law to little effect. It should be noted, however, that the current government and present Minister of Health are finally taking the official position that the health care system in Poland must be restructured to represent a mixture of both public and private initiatives. Plans are also in the works to introduce new laws regarding private health care insurance. It is expected that the current Parliament will pass some amendments to the existing Health Care Law and Regulations. Once these new laws become the legal basis as established legislative reform, U.S. Commercial Service Warsaw foresees significant opportunities for U.S. companies in the health care/medical market.
The main concerns are in the areas of restructuring, privatization, transparency in treatment standards, and control of the reimbursement system. The traditional public health care sector needs investment and management skills to meet the growing demand from patients and at the same time remain within cost controls. The limited resources of state funds make it even more important to attract private sponsors. One way to cure the ills of the Polish system is to open the market for private investors and private health care insurance institutions.
These continuing issues heavily influence the purchase of medical supplies in general. In addition, operational financing is limited in Poland, even among the larger, more successful Polish distributors in the medical sector. Price is the main factor considered by all buyers of medical products in Poland. Quality is usually the next element considered. Investment related purchases, such as advanced medical equipment like mammography equipment, EEG equipment, Magnetic Resonance Imaging units, radiography/tomography Units, X-ray equipment, etc., are usually limited to private clinics. Fortunately, this market niche is rapidly growing, with an average annual growth rate estimated at 20-30% in 2008, while larger private firms grew even faster (30-40%). On the other hand, due to the global economic crisis, in 2009 the annual growth in private medical sector was estimated at only 6-7%.
In general, American suppliers of medical products have a good reputation for high quality products. However, technological advantage is not the only factor determining success in the Polish market. Therefore, American companies should focus on educating end-users and other players in the health care sector. A successful exporter should strongly support its agent/representative at medical seminars and conferences. Participation at conferences and seminars is a very effective avenue for promotion in Poland. American health care management and health insurance institutions are also known to have a long history of operating in highly competitive environments and are established as having strong expertise in private health insurance and plans. The new Polish health care market should present American companies in this sector with good opportunities.