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Health care industry

The health care sector is one of the world’s largest industries. It is relatively insensitive to economic fluctuations compared to other sectors and has posted above-average growth over the past several years.

The main growth factors are:

  • rising medical needs deriving from aging populations
  • the growing number of chronically ill and multimorbid patients
  • stronger demand for innovative products and therapies
  • advances in medical technology
  • the growing health consciousness, which increases the demand for health care services and facilities

In the emerging countries, drivers are:

  • expanding availability and correspondingly greater demand for basic health care
  • increasing national incomes and hence higher spending on health care

At the same time, the cost of health care is rising and claiming an ever-increasing share of national income. Health care spending averaged 9.3% of GDP in the OECD countries in 2011, with an average of US$3,339 spent per capita. As in previous years, the United States had the highest per capita spending (US$8,508). Germany ranked ninth among the OECD countries with per capita spending of US$4,495. In contrast to other European countries, where health spending has been cut in recent years, the trend in Germany was positive, with health care spending increasing by 1.1% in real terms in 2011 compared to 2010.


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The public sector is the main source of health funding in all OECD countries, except Chile, the United States, and Mexico, where public spending was below 50% in 2011. In Germany, 76.5% of health spending was funded by public sources, above the average of 72.2% in the OECD countries.

Most of the OECD countries have enjoyed large gains in life expectancy over the past decades, thanks to improved living standards, public health interventions, and progress in medical care. In 2011, average life expectancy in the OECD countries was 80.1 years.

Health care structures are being reviewed and cost-cutting potential identified in order to contain the steadily rising health care expenditures. However, such measures cannot compensate for the cost pressure. Market-based elements are increasingly being introduced into the health care system to create incentives for cost- and quality-conscious behavior. Overall treatment costs shall be reduced through improved quality standards. In addition, ever-greater importance is being placed on disease prevention and innovative reimbursement models linked to treatment quality standards.

Our most important markets developed as follows:

Sources: OECD Health Data 2013; Bank research
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