The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the Romanian society and also on the economic sectors, the medical industry being at the very center of the sanitary crisis. Although, at the beginning of the year, Romania is confronted with a very high number of daily cases of Covid-19, according to the estimations of the WHO1, 2022 can mark the end of the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic as the pandemic will transition to the endemic phase.
By Silviu Vasile, senior associate at Filip & Company
In this context, it is to be expected that the national medical sector that was sorely tried by the Covid-19 pandemic, will also return to some sort of normality, maintaining however certain remaining traits from the pandemic period.
The transition of the pandemic from the acute to the endemic phase might represent the point when the relevant authorities will resume / accelerate their control activities in relation to the companies active in the medical sector. Thus, it is possible to see an increase in the number of controls in the regulatory area, with a purpose to verify the extent to which the medical services provided, together with the medical devices used, comply with the provisions of the applicable law.
The interactions of medical professionals and patients might also be subject to controls by the authorities seeking to establish the extent to which the patients are correctly informed with respect to the medical services that they benefit from or in relation to the products they acquire, the medicines and food supplements. Besides, the preliminary report of the competition authority regarding the trading of OTC medicines and food supplements2 points out that there is a high degree of confusion for the patients when distinguishing between these two categories of products, especially considering that such products are more and more commercialized via the online channel.
Another area of interest for the authorities might be the public procurements area, as the national authorities, including the Competition Council, are accustomed with investigations of various public procurement proceedings in the medical sector. The intensification of these verifications could concern both the tenders that took place in 2020 and 2021 based on accelerated procedures, as well as the tenders that will be conducted over the following period for the acquisition of medicines to be used in both the treatment of Covid-19, as well as in the various national health programs.
An intensification in the use of certain services
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for an easier communication between doctors and patients, a solution for this being telemedicine. This activity has finally received a coherent regulatory framework at the end of 20203, lots of Romanian medical services providers using it for the benefit of the patients. Along with the continuous development of technology, we might see an increase in the use of telemedicine by the patients, as well as a diversification of the types of medical services provided by telemedicine. These increase in activity will generate, in its turn, the need to update / expand the applicable regulatory framework, in order to protect the rights and interests of the patients, which can be achieved by a collaboration between the authorities (Ministry of Health, ANMDM, etc.), on the one side, and the suppliers of medical services and their professional associations, on the other side.
The Investment Trend
It is a known fact that the medical sector in Romania is underfinanced and does not fit the needs of its patients neither in terms of quantity, nor in terms of quality, being below the European standard average. In this context, the Romanian State has significant investment plans for the healthcare system, allotting more than EUR 2.4 billion in the National Resilience and Recovery Plan4 for the execution, among others, of a significant number of medical practices, healthcare facilities and public hospitals. Thus, the investments will require a sustained effort, from an operational perspective also, in terms of fund distribution, the organisation of public procurement proceedings, the equipping of the medical facilities etc.
At the sane time, we might see an increase in the investments made by the private sector of the medical industry, both in terms of the transactions made in the medical services sector, as well as in the medicine distribution/pharmaceutical sector. Such investments will have to pass various regulatory obstacles, including in terms of competition, given the already high degree of concentration on certain sectors, the means of defining the relevant market (particularly in the retail distribution of medicines) etc.