Healthtech could be Poland’s next big export success story

The application of AI, telemedicine and machine learning in healthcare looks set to become Poland’s next major export success story.

Further evidence of the importance of artificial intelligence emerged last month with the publication of preliminary results from a key survey looking at the healthtech sector in Poland, Top Disruptors in Healthcare.

Carried out by Polish Hospital Federation in partnership with EIT Health, PZU Zdrowie, AstraZeneca and Google for Start-ups, almost 100 Polish healthtech start-ups took part in the survey, the only one of its kind to take an in-depth look at the development of the sector.

The aim of the report is to develop a comprehensive picture of the medical start-up market in Poland. Collecting the most important information about healthtech companies at various levels of development will facilitate the conclusion of effective partnerships between start-ups and investors, healthcare entities and other partners and end customers.

Ultimately, this will affect the quality and availability of services, enabling patients to use the latest medical technologies and therapeutic methods.

The report finds that the number of start-ups making use of AI has increased considerably over the past year, jumping to 43 per cent from 30 per cent in 2020. The uptake of telemedicine – necessary due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, also saw a significant rise: 52 per cent of start-ups now offer telemedicine services.

A serious player

“Telemedicine and AI in healthcare are growing rapidly – we can see that not only in the way our healthcare services are provided, but it is also reflected by the number of start-ups active in these areas,” says Ligia Kornowska, the director of the Polish Hospital Federation and leader of the AI Coalition in Healthcare.

“The emphasis on telemedicine and AI in health are further evidence that Poland is becoming a serious player on the healthtech map,” adds Piotr Najbuk, external relations director at AstraZeneca.

“Enterprises from Poland have a chance to take an important place in the global value chain by operating on this market.”

As a result, investors, says Mikołaj Gurdała, innovation manager at EIT Health InnoStars, are taking an increasing interest.

“Analyses carried out by EIT Health show that the interest in start-up companies developing medtech, biotech or digital health products and services has increased in the last year,” he says. “Large corporations have also become bolder in reaching out to start-up solutions.”

Foreign expansion

The challenge now for Poland’s healthtech start-ups is to expand internationally.

“Unfortunately, only 16 per cent of start-ups generate income from foreign sales,” says Kornowska. “It’s our weak spot, because in the face of dynamic digitalisation of healthcare, we must remember that we are becoming one global village.”

Fortunately, the appetite of Poland’s healthtech start-ups for expansion beyond the country’s borders is huge, and the opportunities are there.

“Many of Poland’s healthtech start-ups offer innovative technologies and approaches to the subject of health care and show great international potential, increasing the opportunity for expansion into foreign markets,” says Michał Kramarz, director of Google for Start-ups in Central and Eastern Europe, and head of the Google for Start-ups Campus in Warsaw.

“The results of this year’s study clearly confirm our experience in cooperation with start-ups such as Infermedica, Stethome or SensDx. We have great scientists, who combine medical knowledge with business better and better.”

“Polish medical start-ups look up at the global market without any complexes,” says Anna Janiczek, president of PZU Zdrowie, a private healthcare supplier. “Only two per cent are not planning any foreign expansion. Telemedicine, AI, and machine learning are areas that can become successful exports.”

Planning foreign expansion, adds Kornowska, is “crucial”.

“Fortunately, almost every start-up wants to be present on foreign markets.”

The full results of the survey, of which Emerging Europe and Tech Emerging Europe Advocates are institutional partners, will be published in June, at the AI in Health conference, organised by the Polish Hospitals Federation.

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