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Growth in Poland’s health and medical sector leads to demand for imports

December 1, 2020
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Rising health care spending and a scarcity of domestic suppliers is creating opportunities for Wisconsin exporters.

Having joined the European Union in 2005, Poland today is one of the top economies within the EU. In the years preceding the pandemic, Poland’s economy recorded above-average growth. While the average real economic growth for all EU member states was 2.1% in 2018 and 1.5% in 2019, Poland’s was 5.4% in 2018 and 4.5% in 2019. This can partly be explained by Poland’s relatively low unemployment rate of 3.3% (2019) and growing consumption. In addition, Poland received the highest funds of all EU member states from the Brussels financial period of 2014-2020, which also stimulated the national economy.

During the first wave of the pandemic, in spring 2020, Poland was able to keep the number of infections relatively low. Even though the number of infections was higher in fall 2020, Poland was still among the countries of the European Union that were least affected. For this reason, experts forecast that Poland’s economy would shrink by only 3.6% in 2020. Due to the solid economic situation prior to the pandemic, growth of 3.3% is expected in 2021.

Compared to other EU markets, the medical sector in Poland was underfunded in previous years, with Poland ranking 24th among 28 EU countries in 2018 according to the share of GDP spent on health care. As Poland’s economy is growing and an aging population fuels demand for medical services, this is bound to change. The Polish government has therefore decided to invest in its medical sector, for example, by constructing new hospitals and expanding existing ones. In addition, the Polish government is investing heavily in digitization of its medical sector. This sector is set to grow by an average of 4.9% annually through 2024. This will be financed by European subsidies as well as Poland’s National Health Fund. As a result of increasing wages and employment, income from health insurance premiums is rising, which provides the National Health Fund with more resources for further development of the medical sector. In turn, investment in the health care sector will also boost the demand for medical technology. Currently, 95% of the medical technology used in Poland is imported. There are only few local players in the market, and they primarily produce basic equipment such as bioelectronic equipment, operating room equipment, rehabilitation equipment, medical furniture and surgical tools.

Poland is therefore strongly dependent on imports of medical equipment and technology, and this creates opportunities for Wisconsin companies. In 2019, Wisconsin companies exported medical technology worth $10.1 million to Poland—in particular, x-ray equipment and surgical tools, equaling almost 10% of all Wisconsin exports to Poland that year. While total exports to Poland decreased in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, exports in the medical sector stayed almost constant, proving the high demand for Wisconsin technology in the sector. As Poland invests heavily in its medical sector, new opportunities will arise for the construction and expansion of hospitals, medical furniture, equipment for operating rooms, surgical tools and diagnostic equipment. As health care facilities are required to publicly announce the procurement of goods worth more than $36,500, it is recommended to cooperate with local partners in order to participate in local tenders when entering the Polish market.

The medical industry is one of the most promising economic sectors in Poland, as it will receive special financial support in the coming years and many additional investments are planned. This is an opportunity for Wisconsin companies to increase their exports to Poland, in particular equipment for hospitals. In order to get further insights into the Polish medical sector, the trade fair SALMED (March 24-26, 2021) is a good opportunity to make connections.

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