Healthcare in Europe


Mapping, analysing and reporting barriers to transnational trade in healthcare

The provision of healthcare in Europe is a complex and multi-faceted system that can be very confusing for healthcare providers, patients and—especially—for those aiming to enter their products or services into the different healthcare markets. The European healthcare systems range from the publicly funded NHS in the UK to the health-insurance-sector led system in countries such as the Netherlands. Some countries also implement a mixture of types of provisions to make up their healthcare systems.

The challenges facing those responsible for providing healthcare across Europe are increasing. There are the demands of an ageing population, the increasing issues related to providing for migrant populations who have particular healthcare needs and the increasing cost of energy. There is also the increased likelihood of diseases spreading into Europe from countries that are nearer to the Tropics as climate change causes environmental changes that affect disease vectors. Added to that, the impact of the Brexit situation and myriad other issues present a frightening picture for policymakers, healthcare providers, clinicians, administrators and patients.

While it is recognised that business may have a significant role to play in meeting these challenges (Enders, 2008), businesses find it difficult to penetrate the healthcare systems in their own countries, let alone penetrating foreign markets. This has been acknowledged as a problem and there are many business support organisations including enterprise agencies, academic organisations, not-for-profits and other institutions that aim to help businesses enter these markets.

Many healthcare providers are facing significant budget cuts and at the same time, the cost of providing ever more sophisticated and targeted treatments is on the rise. They are being pulled in different directions as they try to provide better healthcare for patients whilst identifying areas in which they can potentially cut costs.

Therefore, when businesses approach healthcare providers with new ideas and innovations for new products and systems, it is not a simple matter of accepting the technology—no matter how excellent its outcomes are. The many financial, administrative and political issues involved can mean the healthcare provider is not in a position to accept that technology into their procurement system, management processes or clinical diagnostic and treatment systems.

It is difficult for businesses to recognise this complexity and difficult for healthcare providers to overcome or even to communicate the problems to businesses. As a result, there continues to be a disconnect between these two groups that even business support organisations struggle to overcome. The willingness exists, but it is not always to resolve the disconnect pragmatically.