European health care industry meets in Bad Gastein

Bad Gastein 04 October 2005Tremendous optimism prevailed at the conference of the medical-technical lobby COCIR - Co-ordination Committee of the Radiological, Electromedical and Medical IT Industries, which was held on October 4, just prior to the official start of the European Health Forum Gastein in Bad Gastein. At the event which was titled "Improving Health Care Infrastructure in an Enlarged Europe", the more than 140 leading representatives of the industry from throughout Europe who attended discussed the enormous business opportunities arising from the considerable backlog demand in the area of health care infrastructure in the new European Union states.

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COCIR's members consist of virtually every essential player on the booming market for medical technical systems and IT in the health care sector. Among them are Siemens, GE, Philips, Dräger, Kodak and Agfa. The industry places great hopes particularly on the means provided by the European Union structural funds, which now are explicitly available for medical infrastructure in the new European Union states as well.

"We anticipate that three to five percent of the monies provided by Euorpean Union structural funds, that is, approximately one billion euro annually, will flow into medical infrastructure", stated COCIR board member Jean-Yves Burel from GE. "The prerequisite, however, is corresponding commitment from the new Euorpean Union states. Investments in the area of health care contribute not just to the social and political stability of a country, but can be an important economic motor as well."

With targeted investment programmes, the substantial shortfalls in medical care in East European countries also provide these states with the opportunity to become even vanguards in the current transformations occurring within the industry. The key to this is medical IT. COCIR congress organiser Karl-Jürgen Schmitt from Siemens is convinced that "IT applications will become the most important innovations in health care in the coming years. Here enormous increases in efficiency as well as quality improvements will be attainable for the patients." For this reason this industry will be the focal point of efforts made by Central and East European states in the modernisation of their health care systems.

Yet the initial catalyst provided by the European Union structural funds represents a tremendous opportunity, not just for the countries themselves, but for companies as well. International companies will be highly integrated into the process with a substantial share of the investments, particularly in the technically and scientifically most valued industries.

"We are also optimistic that the European Union's decision to incorporate health care into its programme for strengthening the economy in the new European Union states will also lead to consideration of health care systems as no longer exclusively an expensive cost factor, but that their function as an essential component and important motor in economic development will be understood", stated Jean-Yves Burel.


Leslie Versweyveld

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