Abstract: Multinational Enterprises and the Globalization of Medicine: Siemens and the Construction of Hospitals in Emerging Markets in the 1950s and 1960s

Pierre-Yves Donze


This paper tackles the role of multinational enterprises (MNEs) marketing medical equipment in the globalization of medicine and healthcare systems during the 1950s and 1960s, using the example of the German company Siemens-Reiniger-Werke (SRW). Specializing in X-ray instruments, this firm held a large share of various world markets—especially in emerging countries—until 1939, but war put an end to its leadership. At the end of the 1940s, because of the tough competition it faced in Latin America, SRW adopted a new strategy that centered on supplying fully equipped hospitals rather than exporting machines and instruments. Thus, in 1949, SRW founded an association comprising some thirty German companies (Deutsche Hospitalia) to take charge of this activity and built about one hundred hospitals in emerging countries by 1964, when a formal firm (Hospitalia International GmbH) was created for this business purpose. This paper argues that, through this activity, SRW contributed strongly to the diffusion of a standardized hospital model in developing countries and later of a Western hospital-based healthcare system.