Albania has a predominantly public healthcare system, but private services are increasingly popular. The public health service is divided into the primary healthcare and hospital healthcare service. The Ministry of Health takes the leading role in the public sector. It develops health policies, proposes the health care budget and the investment program for the sector, and monitors the work of state-owned health institutions. The Compulsory Healthcare Insurance Fund (ISKSH) is based on compulsory payroll contribution from both employees and employers and is subsidized by the government for other segments of population. It administers the primary healthcare system, and reimburses patients for prescriptions drugs and some approved services in both public and private secondary and tertiary healthcare service.
The government has been investing in the secondary and tertiary public healthcare to improve physical infrastructure and technology. Albania has 41 public hospitals: 22 district hospitals, 11 regional hospitals, four university hospitals, one trauma university centre, two psychiatric hospitals, and the National Centre on Child Development and Rehabilitation. The system is financed by the state budget and equipment and other major investments are purchased directly by publicly owned institutions. The Law on Public Procurement requires open electronic tenders for all purchases of goods and services.
The government is granting major hospital services as Public Private Partnerships. The GOA already has granted concessions for laboratory services for the entire public health service, provision of sterile surgical instruments, single-use sterile medical supplies in surgical rooms, waste treatment, and disinfection of surgical rooms, basic health check-ups for citizens between 40-65 years old, and hemodialysis treatment.
The private sector also is developing at a fast pace. The number of clinics for specialized diagnosis has increased significantly in major urban areas and private hospital development is making progress. Four private, western standard hospitals have opened in Tirana in the last few years. American Hospital, Hygeia, German Hospital, and Salus Hospital all offer a wide range of specialized services.
The development of private clinics, opening of private hospitals, and investments by the government in the public health sector have all raised the demand for medical equipment, and represent good opportunities for U.S. manufacturers of healthcare equipment.
Albanians spend approximately six percent of GDP (around $800 million) on healthcare spending, split almost evenly between public and private expenditures. The country imports 100 percent of the medical equipment that is used in the market. The primary suppliers of such equipment are manufacturers from the EU and to a lesser degree the United States. Public expenditure for capital investments in the healthcare is low. In 2016, the government has earmarked only $19 million for capital investments in the health care sector for improvements in hospital infrastructure and technology.
According to Albanian customs data, during 2015, imports under the HS code 9018-9019-9020-9021-9022 totaled close to $25 million. In 2015, medical equipment coming from the United States accounted for 11 percent of the total imports. However, the presence of U.S. brands in the medical equipment sector likely is much higher than customs data reflect, as the importing country listed in the custom reports does not reflect the brand.
All the major international healthcare equipment providers are present in the local market. The major competitors of U.S. manufactured medical equipment are European companies. U.S. brand sells very well in Albania, but after-sales service remains a challenge. As such, it is highly advisable that U.S. companies aiming to enter the market consider a local partner able to provide this service.
Sub-Sector Best Prospects
Equipment and medical devices in the categories of medical imaging, ultrasound, monitors and anesthesia; dental; diagnostic and surgical microscopes; endoscopes; and blood diagnostics all represent good prospects for U.S. exports. Additionally, the improvement of the management of information in the healthcare system and the introduction of e-services will create opportunities for exports of U.S. goods and services.
There are good opportunities in the Albanian market for U.S. manufacturers of medical equipment for both the public and private sectors. U.S.-manufactured medical devices and equipment enjoy an excellent reputation in Albania for their state-of-the-art technology, quality, and reliability. Price and after the sale technical assistance are two factors to be considered in the Albanian market.
Products that might represent some export opportunities for U.S. manufacturers include: diagnostic imaging (CT, MRI) and radiation therapy equipment; computer tomography imaging equipment; electrocardiographs; cardiovascular diagnostic equipment; pace makers (the American Hospital and the German Hospital have strong cardiology departments); digitalized x-ray equipment; clinical laboratory equipment (there are many independent labs); non-invasive surgical devices; anesthesia and intensive care equipment; ultrasound equipment; urology equipment; laboratory and testing equipment; tissue and blood bank related equipment (there is a national blood bank although reputable hospitals do some of this type of testing before transfusion); needles; catheters; medical lasers; endoscopes; laser instruments, and a whole range of dentistry equipment and products.
The private market also presents opportunities and the most efficient way to enter the market is to engage local contacts such as dealers, agents, representatives, or partners. In addition to the Albanian Procurement platform, companies should also monitor the World Bank announcements since the later has been involved in financing the modernization of the health sector in Albania.