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Healthcare Resource Guide: Belgium

 

Belgium Statistics

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Summary
Market Entry

Current Market Trends

Main Competitors

Current Demand
Registration Process

Reimbursement

Barriers
Trade Events

Local Associations

Government Links

Best Prospects

Statistics Snapshot

CS Contact

Capital: Brussels

Population: 11.4 million

GDP*:USD 470.2 billion (2016 est)

Currency: Euro (€)

Language: Dutch, French, German

Summary

Belgium produces less than 10 percent of medical equipment consumed domestically. This leaves the market open for heavy competition among suppliers from the U.S., Germany, France, and U.K. According to the latest available figures, the U.S. has a 28 percent share of total medical equipment imports into Belgium. U.S. suppliers are particularly dominant in sectors of diagnostic imaging apparatus, orthopedic and implantable products, and medical and surgical instruments.

The Belgian market for medical equipment and supplies is estimated at $2.4 billion in 2017. Over the past 5 years, this sector has seen an annual growth of approximately 4 percent.

The following data are in billions of dollars:

 

2015

2016

(Est.)

2017

(Est.)

Total Market Size

2.2

2.2

2.4

Total Local Production

3.9

4.0

3.6

Total Exports

12.7

13.3

12.5

Total Imports

11

11.5

11.3

Imports from the U.S.

2.9

2.9

2.9

1 Euro = 1.1095 1.1069 1.0628

(Source: BMI)

Differentials can be explained by the fact that Belgium is a large transshipment hub.

Belgium is for many companies a regional distribution center and more than two-thirds of medical device exports are sent to other countries within the EU.

The Belgian Social Security System, which includes the Health Care System, is considered among the most extensive and efficient in Europe. It covers nearly 100 percent of the population of 11.4 million inhabitants.

Belgium is also home to many HealthTech start-ups. Traditionally, the HealthTech sector has had a large number of spin-offs, but new businesses no longer have to have a research background to be successful. Nonetheless, universities, knowledge centers and university hospitals remain fertile ground for new entrepreneurship in health. However, many health startups find it difficult to develop the business model at an international level and to source risk and growth capital.

Market Entry

Belgium is an effective starting point for marketing medical equipment to the rest of Europe due to its geographical location, its effective healthcare system, and its relatively open attitude regarding procurement. Belgium is a distribution center for many multinationals: products are imported into Belgium and exported to other European countries. Consequently, the value of Belgian medical imports is significantly higher than the value of the market itself.

In order to enter the medical equipment market in Belgium, American suppliers should be familiar with the EU directives concerning the registration, marketing, and health/safety standards required throughout Europe as well as regulations specific to Belgium. It is therefore advisable to work with a local partner/distributor.

Since July 1, 2013, the European Directive 2004/18/EC on public procurement applies to all hospitals for the purchase of medicines and medical devices. The directive requires that for purchases over the threshold of €200,000, a European tender should be released and published in the supplement of the Official Journal of the European Union. Procurement with a threshold between €85,000 and €200,000 requires a tender in Belgium and publication in the Official Journal.

Current Market Trends

Belgium’s healthcare system is currently facing several challenges.  A growing elderly population and higher health expectations have and will have an important impact on healthcare expenditures in the coming years.  In this context, the government is looking at various cost-saving measures.  Thus, innovative technologies and equipment offering cost savings will have a strong market potential. Diagnostic products to detect chronic diseases in their early stages, orthopedic products, homecare products, obesity and diabetes products are in high demand.

Belgium’s current nomenclature and reimbursement system is under revision and a legal framework will be put in place so that telemonitoring, medical apps, and wearable medical technologies can be used and reimbursed in the near future. The 2016 health budget includes €44 million to help IT departments in hospitals to implement the eHealth Action Plan. The aim is that by 2019 all hospitals will have an electronic record for each patient.

Main Competitors

Belgium has approximately 800 companies manufacturing or distributing medical products. The majority of these firms are small or medium-sized, employing an average of 20 to 50 people. Belgian suppliers do well in niche markets, including anesthesia equipment, diagnostic imaging, cancer diagnosis, and teleradiology.

Belgium is home to many subsidiaries of American companies such as GE Medical Systems, 3M, Abbott Vascular, Baxter, Johnson & Johnson Medical, Medtronic, Becton Dickinson, Boston Scientific, St. Jude Medical and Cyberonics.

Current Demand

There is a trend towards treating chronic diseases with new technologies allowing patients to stay home, and minimizing the impact on their quality of life. As such, innovative technologies, minimally invasive and non-invasive equipment, user-friendly homecare products, medical software, telemedicine, eHealth and mhealth are sectors with a strong market potential.

Additionally, orthopedic and implantable products, as well as diabetes products are in demand.


Registration Process

The distribution of medical devices is regulated by Belgian law. Distributors of medical devices, including active implantable devices, should notify the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (http://www.fagg-afmps.be/en/human_use/health_products/medical_devices_accessories/).

Since 2014, implantable medical devices must be registered consistently during the time the product is introduced to the Belgian market through to implanting the medical device. Furthermore, a databank will collect information regarding all implantable medical devices that are available on the Belgian market, allowing patients to check if an implant is registered or not.

Medical devices must bear the CE marking for conformity when marketed. Custom-made implantable and non-implantable devices and devices for clinical investigation do not require CE marking. If a notified body has been involved in verifying the procedure of conformity, the CE mark must be accompanied by a four digit number indicating the notified body. Information on CE Marking can be found here: http://export.gov/europeanunion/eustandardsandcertification/index.asp

The new European Medical Device Regulation (MDR) was adopted in April 2017. The MDR will replace the EU’s current Medical Device Directive (93/42/EEC) and the EU’s Directive on active implantable medical devices (90/385/EEC). The goal of the MDR is to further improve patient safety with increased traceability and to tighten regulations for clinical trials, in particular for high-risk products, and will put some medical products including surgical reusables and biomedical products in higher risk classifications.

It will also mean more unannounced inspections by Notified Bodies and Competent Authorities and additional requirements for the accreditation and supervision of Notified Bodies. All European Notified Bodies will lose their accreditation after the MDR and the European In-Vitro-Diagnostics Directive take effect, and will have to be newly accredited within six months. Manufacturers of currently approved medical devices will have a transition time of three years until May 26th 2020 to meet the requirements of the MDR and 5 years after entry into force (spring 2022) for the Regulation on in vitro diagnostic medical devices. More information on the new regulation is available here: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/medical-devices/regulatory-framework/revision_nl

Reimbursement

Belgium has a centralized system of reimbursement. In order to be eligible for reimbursement under the national social security scheme, medical devices need to be included on a list of reimbursable medical services and devices known as the Nomenclature. Inclusion on the list and the level of reimbursement is determined by the national health insurer INAMI in conjunction with the federal ministry of health.

The current trend is to regulate reimbursement policy much more strictly as part of a drive to increase the cost effectiveness of the healthcare system. At the same time, efforts are being made to facilitate the introduction of innovative technology which is able to demonstrate a clear health/cost benefit over existing medical practice. To this end, health technology assessment, involving detailed analysis of cost effectiveness and health outcomes of alternative treatments, is being increasingly used to determine reimbursement policy.

Barriers

There are no significant trade barriers on American medical devices.

Trade Events

Medica Duesseldorf – November 13-16, 2017

International Trade Fair for Medical Equipment

http://www.medica-tradefair.com/

Local Associations

beMedTech

http://www.bemedtech.be/bemedtech/qui-sommes-nous/?lang=nl

The Belgian Association of manufacturers, importers and distributors of medical technologies (including in-vitro diagnostics, consumables, implants, capital equipment).

Government Links

Healthcare Procurement:

http://justitie.belgium.be/nl/overheidsdienst_justitie/organisatie/belgisch_staatsblad (Procurement with a threshold between €85,000 and €200,000)

http://ted.europa.eu/TED/main/HomePage.do (Procurement >€200,000)

Best Prospects

  • E-Health is a promising tool to communicate with citizens and help balance costs, quality, and access to services. Belgium ranks 10th out of 28 EU countries for its ‘digital public services’ – which includes e-Health – per the most recent Digital Economy and Society Index. To realize the full potential of e-Health and m-health, the overall healthcare ecosystem must be reformed. Swift data transfers between all stakeholders, such as hospitals, patients, public authorities, research institutes and industry, supported by an effective regulatory framework, can help the effective use of ‘big data’. A fully informed healthcare network provides for more coherent communication and efficient decision-making. HIT solutions for electronic health records, e-Prescription, allowing healthcare providers to share patient information, and interoperability are some of the objectives in the current e-Health road map 2013-2018 and offer a strong market potential.
  • Innovative technologies and equipment that can help cut costs.
  • Diagnostic products to detect chronic diseases in their early stages, orthopedic products, homecare products, obesity and diabetes products are in high demand.

Statistics Snapshot

Market Size

Healthcare spending (including investment)

 

... as percent of GDP

10.4%

... of which spent on inpatient services (including long-term care)

2.6%

... of which spent on pharmaceuticals/consumables

1.4%

... of which spent on investments

3.3%

... of which spent on outpatient services

2.7%

Hospitals, Procedures, Healthcare Professionals UN:

Number of hospitals

177

…Public

47

…Private

130

Number of hospital beds

44,089

... available beds per capita

6.2 per 1000 inhabitants

...of which in general hospitals

34,096

...of which in specialized clinics and rehabilitation centers

9,993

Number of surgical procedures

(Per 100,000 population)

17,764

...of which [top procedure]

Cataract

...of which [second highest procedure]

Diagnostic Bronchoscopy with or without biopsy

Physicians

45,097

...of which surgeons

8,286

...of which internists

1,401

...of which pediatricians

1,956

Dentists

9,859

Demographics

Population

11,409,077 (July 2016 est.)

Life expectancy men/women

  • male: 78.4 years
  • female: 83.7 years (2016 est.)

Infant mortality

3.4 deaths/1,000 live births

Percent of population older than 65

18%

...projection, 2030

22.4%

Annual deaths

9.7 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

...caused by [highest disease burden]

Heart and Vascular Diseases

...caused by [second highest]

Cancer

Prevalence of Heart and Vascular diseases

28.6%

U.S. Commercial Service Contact Information

Name: Danny Dumon

Position: Commercial Specialist

Email: danny.dumon@trade.gov

Phone: +32 2 811 54 76


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