Health care system in Poland

  • April 27, 2024
Health care system in Poland

The health care system in Poland is based on social health insurance, which is almost universal and covers most of the country's inhabitants. The main levels of government in the health care system include municipalities responsible for primary health care, counties managing small district hospitals, and voivodships overseeing large district hospitals. This division of responsibility presents significant challenges to effective coordination in the health care system.

Primary care is the entry point to the Polish health care system, with primary care physicians playing the role of "gatekeepers" for access to more specialized health care services. Specialized outpatient care, which was previously separated from inpatient care, is now back in hospitals. Hospitals within large hospital networks are incentivized to provide outpatient care.

Financing of the health care system

The health care system in Poland is financed from both public and private sources. The main source of funding is compulsory social insurance, which covers the majority of the population. These contributions are largely used to finance public health services. However, in addition to public funding, private funding also plays a significant role, including voluntary health insurance and paid medical services, especially in private clinics. Private expenditures account for about 30% of total health expenditures, which is higher than the average for other European Union countries.

Additionally, out-of-pocket expenditures, especially for medicines and dental care, which are rarely fully covered by insurance, account for a significant share of private expenditures. Despite the increase in public spending on health care in recent years, the system faces challenges such as a shortage of medical personnel and long waiting lists for medical services.

Organization of medical care

In Poland, medical care is organized through a mixed system of public and private medical institutions, with the main emphasis on public health care. The system is managed at three levels of territorial administration: municipalities (communes) are responsible for primary health care, counties (poviats) usually manage smaller county hospitals, and districts (voivodships) manage large district hospitals. This structure presents certain difficulties for effective coordination of activities in the health care system.

Private health care facilities mainly provide outpatient services, while most hospitals are public. Poland is also actively developing digital health technologies, such as electronic medical prescriptions and online consultation systems, which improve access to health services and facilitate more efficient organization of care.

Medicine in Poland

Issues and challenges

Poland's health care system faces a number of significant problems and challenges:

  1. Shortage of medical personnel. Poland is experiencing a serious shortage of qualified medical personnel, especially doctors and nurses. This is exacerbated by the emigration of medical professionals to other European Union countries in search of better working conditions and higher salaries.
  2. Long waiting lists for specialist appointments and scheduled surgeries. Patients in Poland often face long waiting times for specialist appointments and elective surgeries. The wait can take several months to a year, especially for complex medical procedures and surgeries.
  3. Shortcomings in coverage for some types of medical care. While basic health insurance in Poland covers most services, there are significant gaps, such as in the availability of cost-reimbursable drugs and dental services, which often require a significant co-payment or are paid entirely out of patients' pockets.
  4. Problems with access to health care in rural and remote areas. In Poland's smaller cities and rural areas, access to high quality health care may be limited due to a lack of health care facilities and specialists.

These problems require a comprehensive approach to reform, including improving working conditions for health workers, optimizing queue management and access to specialists, and strengthening support for health facilities in sparsely populated regions.

Read also: Cost of living and prices in Poland 2024

Digitalization of health care

In Poland, the process of digitalization of healthcare is actively developing, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the widespread introduction of electronic medical prescriptions and online consultations. Since 2020, the country has had mandatory e-prescribing, which allows doctors to write prescriptions digitally, making it much easier for patients to obtain medication. Electronic prescriptions can be sent to patients via SMS or email as PDF files with a QR code, which patients present at pharmacies.

The development of telemedicine has also allowed patients to receive online consultations and prescriptions for medications needed to continue their treatment without the need to visit a doctor in person. Doctors conduct full medical consultations over the internet and can then write an electronic prescription if medically justified. Online consultations and prescriptions are legal and comply with Polish law.

Health care in Poland for foreigners


The state of Poland's healthcare system emphasizes its continuous development and adaptation to modern challenges. In recent years, significant efforts have been made to improve the organization of medical care, especially for critical diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and to integrate digital technologies into the healthcare system. These changes include improved care coordination and adoption of e-solutions, which were accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Future reforms aim to further increase public spending on health care to reach a level of 6% of GDP by 2024, which involves increasing investment in population health and preparing for possible future health crises.

Plans also include the continued development of a recovery and sustainability program supported by the European Union, which promises to strengthen the country's economic and social stability through health care, supporting green transition and digital transformation.

Elena Chernenko

Elena Chernenko

Elena is a recognized expert in the bus transportation industry. With a deep understanding of the industry and a wealth of experience, Elena has earned a reputation for reliability working with both large carriers and private companies. Her expertise includes route planning, safety analysis and efficiency of transportation solutions.

In her blog, Elena offers professional advice, reviews current market trends and shares her experience to help readers better understand the world of bus transportation.

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