The Polish healthcare system has been chronically underfunded for many years, which is reflected in staff shortages and access issues such as long waiting times and high co-payments. But a transformation is underway: national initiatives and EU-level funding programs are aimed at changing things for the better – both for patients and also manufacturers of medical technology and pharmaceutical products, who can look forward to exciting new sales opportunities.


With around 38 million inhabitants, Poland ranks among the most populous countries in Europe, and the nation’s population is relatively young: in 2022, only 18.6% were over 65 years old. Life expectancy, on the other hand, is a little lower compared to the United Kingdom (UK), with 79.3 years vs. 81.77 years, respectively. These numbers are being influenced by various factors. Nearly half of all deaths in Poland can be attributed to behavioral factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption or a sedentary lifestyle. In addition, almost one in five Polish adults is obese.

Over the last 20 years, measures implemented to curb alcohol consumption have actually been watered down: in 2001, the ban on beer advertising was lifted, and the consumption tax on spirits was reduced by 30%. The program to reduce tobacco consumption was also discontinued, and the annual tax increases on tobacco products were suspended. In January 2021, however, a “sugar tax” was imposed on sugary drinks, with the generated tax revenue earmarked to combat and treat obesity.

The main causes of death (pre-Covid) included ischemic heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. Despite overall lower cancer incidence rates compared to the UK, mortality rates are higher, indicating issues with timely diagnosis and treatment. In 2021, the most common types of cancer in men were lung cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer. In women, breast cancer was most common, followed by lung cancer, colorectal cancer and cervical cancer. In order to address these developments, Poland has recently launched several initiatives geared toward strengthening cancer prevention and treatment.

Health market

The Polish healthcare system is based on a general, compulsory health insurance scheme provided via the National Health Fund (Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia, NFZ), which reports to the Ministry of Health. The latter plays a central role in the management of the health sector, sharing this responsibility with three levels of local authorities: the municipal level is responsible for primary care, the districts are responsible for the (mostly) smaller district hospitals, and the voivodeships (regions) are responsible for the mostly larger regional hospitals.

In terms of annual GDP per capita, Poland’s health expenditure is only half of what the UK spends on healthcare. Most of the funds are used for inpatient care (37%). At the same time, outpatient care, diagnostics, long-term care and prevention have tended to lack adequate funding.

Like many countries in the European Union (EU), Poland is also suffering from an acute shortage of nurses and doctors, especially primary care physicians. According to Eurostat, Poland has the lowest number of practicing doctors per 1,000 inhabitants (2.4) in the EU, compared to 3.2 in the UK. At the same time, waiting times for specialist medical services have risen even further in recent years – to 3.8 months on average.

Although compulsory health insurance covers 91% of the population, there are unmet needs in the provision of medicines, medical devices, dental care and long-term nursing care. Co-payments account for 20% of healthcare spending, which may be a reason why people often turn to alternative healing methods and why around one in five prescriptions is not filled. People with no insurance, however, are still granted access to outpatient emergency and primary care.


The national health program is generally shifting its strategic focus to foster a healthier lifestyle and reduce key risk factors rather than merely treat disease. The program’s objectives include obesity prevention, healthy aging, mental health, addiction prevention and the reduction of health risks associated with environmental factors and infectious diseases. And legislation recently adopted by the Polish government now mandates annual spending of least 6% of the country’s GDP on public healthcare.

Poland is also addressing the shortage of medical specialists by creating training centers, funding surgical simulators and new diagnostics and promoting higher remuneration for specialists. Research projects are supported with around 8 billion euros, and the government is investing around 815.5 million euros in the medical sector, including for digital services, the modernization of clinical practice equipment and the development of mental health centers.

Telehealth has already been part and parcel of Polish everyday life: electronic medical records and prescriptions are widely accepted, and healthcare professionals use app-assisted digital stethoscopes and ECG patches for the remote care and monitoring of patients. After all, the country made a conscious decision to invest in this field: a government program backed by 2 billion euros in funding supports the digital health sector, with a targeted focus on artificial intelligence and big data solutions.

Poland’s healthcare sector is also to receive almost 4.5 billion euros from the European Recovery Fund for furnishing hospitals and clinics with new equipment. The government aims to increase the country’s production of strategically important active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), particularly in biopharma, and to support their distribution and provisioning in Poland. Industry observers expect the Polish pharmaceutical market to grow by 7–8% annually until 2026.

European efforts are supplemented by the support of the Polish Medical Fund (Fundusz Medyczny) established in 2020, which offers a budget of around 650 million euros to be invested in the expansion of children’s hospitals and modernization projects. In terms of equipment, the Polish medical device industry is dominated by manufacturers of non-invasive products such as orthopedic devices, hospital furniture, consumables and rehabilitation technology. Imaging devices and advanced medical technology are mostly imported from abroad, with generally great demand for gamma cameras as well as radiotherapy and mammography equipment. As of 2023, the NFZ is also planning to grant higher subsidies for hearing aids, wheelchairs and compression stockings, with more products to follow.

These measures, along with government investment programs and the growth of private healthcare providers, are having an overall positive impact on sales prospects in the medical technology sector. The field of dental care, in particular, will be driven by the increasing popularity of private supplementary insurance. Industry analysts predict average annual growth of 6.8% until 2026.

Legal and regulatory conditions

In Poland, the responsibility for the authorization of medicinal products lies with the Office for the Registration of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices and Biocidal Products (Urzędzie Rejestracji Produktów Leczniczych, Wyrobów Medycznych i Produktów Biobójczych, UPRLWMiPB). It monitors all matters relating to the manufacture, import, distribution and advertising of medicines for human and veterinary use. The reimbursement prices are negotiated by the Ministry of Health and the manufacturers within a scheme of four reimbursement levels: free, flat-rate or with a co-payment of 50% or 30% of the funding limit of the Medical Fund.

Medical devices, which also include digital health apps and medical device software, require a CE mark to be sold on the Polish market. A further requirement is the appointment of a Polish-based authorized representative and the registration of the product in the medical device registry of the UPRLWMiPB. As with medicines, reimbursement can be applied for individually. Alternatively, a flat-rate reimbursement by product type is also possible for prescription products that meet certain product class criteria.

EU-wide and international health market

Each EU member state can autonomously define its own health policy. The EU’s directives and regulations, however, provide a framework which must be implemented at the national level. A well-known example is the MDR, the Medical Device Regulation (2017/745), which specifies the requirements for all medical devices to be sold on the European internal market. Approval is granted on the basis of a declaration of conformity, which is reviewed by a notified body as part of the conformity assessment.

For the approval of medicinal products, manufacturers can choose between two options: the national approval process (through the UPRLWMiPB) and the centralized procedure of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The second approval pathway offers the distinct advantage that manufacturers can have the drug product approved for the entire European Economic Area (EU, Iceland and Norway) by filing just one application, which significantly reduces overall regulatory costs.


Internationalization allows Polish hospitals and clinical centers to expand their target audience and present their range of services to international patients. The translation of scientific publications and medical training materials, for example, also opens up the opportunity to benefit from the experience and best practices of other countries when training and educating specialists to improve the overall quality of care.

Translations play a decisive role in the entire life cycle of medical devices, medicines and food supplements as well as health and lifestyle products. Specialist translators are familiar with the relevant requirements, which may differ greatly depending on the audience (authorities, specialists or laypersons), the purpose (regulatory, marketing, patient awareness, etc.) as well as text type and channel. In addition to subject matter expertise, this task requires in-depth training and a high degree of linguistic and cultural sensitivity.

When addressing patients or consumers directly, for example in educational brochures, social media posts or information portals, the translation should be easy to read and understand. After all, excessive jargon and overly long sentences wouldn’t suit the needs and expectations of the reader. Marketing copy, for example, needs to be engaging and convey confidence in the product or therapy.

The languages that are particularly relevant for the Polish market comprise, in addition to Polish itself, Silesian with over half a million speakers, Kashubian, English and German. The most important regional or minority languages include Armenian, Belarusian, Yiddish, Lemkish and Ukrainian. Of note, Polish is also the second-most widely spoken Slavic language in the world after Russian and is the mother tongue of many minority communities abroad (e.g. in the UK).


Poland offers a compelling sales market for UK manufacturers, in particular, not least due to the numerous funding initiatives and the high demand for digital health technology. However, observers criticize the sluggish implementation of the government’s funding instruments. Another impediment to gaining market access is the fragmented healthcare system with its various levels of responsibility.

As Poland tends to rely on national solutions, international manufacturers and service providers must be prepared to face steep domestic competition, particularly in the digital health segment. Cooperation with local experts is advisable, also regarding the entry into the reimbursement list.

This is where translations can build bridges, support fruitful cooperation and shape the commercial success of a product or service. Any errors or misleading instructions in translated texts, on the other hand, could have devastating consequences. They would both jeopardize the safety of patients and users and also expose the manufacturer to considerable liability.

Partnering with a professional language service provider will help you master these challenges and more. They will support you with linguistic and cultural know-how and medical expertise to ensure seamless and effective communication.



autor_eurotext_100Author: Eurotext Editorial Team

We explain how internationalization works, provide tips for your translation projects and outline some of the technology and processes used. We also report on current e-commerce developments and cover a range of language-related topics.