The healthcare industry in the European Union (EU) is robust, and it promises to continue adrenalizing the region's economy, employment, and balance of trade.
A crescendo of factors – the global pandemic, astonishing scientific breakthroughs, ubiquitous technology, smart data and intelligent analytics, an empowered buying public, and a new focus on innovative (and preventative) medicines – is driving healthcare transformation to some degree in all 27 EU nations.
In its official Winter 2022 Economic Forecast, the European Commission wrote, "Following a strong recovery by 5.3% in 2021, the EU economy is now forecast to grow by 4.0% in 2022." Healthcare will be a substantial contributor. The commission's prediction comes despite global pandemic headwinds.
The quality of logistics will determine, to large degree, the ultimate health of the healthcare marketplace.
Until recently, logistics philosophy held that networks should be cost-efficient and as lean as possible. This thinking led to long, complex, and consolidated supply chains.
Now, with the pandemic and evolving government and consumer priorities, shorter supply chains and the resulting intra-regional and alternative sourcing opportunities present new benefits – and greater opportunity.
Already a hub for research, manufacturing, clinical infrastructure, and logistics, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is primed to take advantage of global evolutions.
The CEE has a highly trained workforce. It's strategically placed within Europe's stringent regulatory framework, and it claims a choice geographic location at a crossroads of European, Middle Eastern, Asian, and even some North African markets.
The CEE's assets, combined with the region's increasing consumer buying power and new investments, make healthcare expansion there an appealing consideration for firms seeking a footprint in a promising market.
Economic vectors in the CEE point a positive direction:
The healthcare market of today and tomorrow requires precise handling and tracking of medicines and equipment and, increasingly, specific temperature conditions for shipments.
Many of the top-selling drugs globally (Humira, Keytruda, COVID vaccines) are temperature-sensitive biologics – drugs made from living sources. More and more of these biologics and cold chain drugs are pouring out of facilities today as they prove newly effective against formidable diseases. To properly handle such valuable treatments, companies like UPS Healthcare have designed transportation products like UPS® Premier, a fast-lane network with highly specialized handling, enhanced visibility, and close control.
UPS Healthcare has aggressively expanded in CEE, placing regulatory-compliant cold chain facilities in the region. Hungary has added operations. New strategically located state-of-the-art facilities are up and running in Poland and Czech Republic, and another facility expansion in Czech Republic comes online in September 2022. UPS Healthcare's first dedicated facility in Germany opens in early 2023.
All these investments will support the future of the pharmaceutical, medical device, and lab diagnostics industries, and ensure fast transportation domestically and across borders to connect EU and global networks.
In all, UPS Healthcare manages 125-plus cGMP- and GDP-compliant healthcare facilities in more than 30 nations.
Healthcare companies should adopt a mixed approach to their involvement in CEE countries, remaining flexible as conditions change but staying poised to seize opportunities as they emerge.
Digitization, changes in market access, consumer preferences, and regulatory reform must be balanced in any risk/reward analysis. Whatever else, a market presence in the CEE today is central to a European business strategy.
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