German Hospital Officials Courted by Beckman : Technology: Tour of UCI Medical Center focuses on Fullerton-based firm’s equipment. The company says it is sowing the seeds of future sales.


As Philip L. Tipper guided hospital officials from eastern Germany through UCI Medical Center in Orange on Monday afternoon, he pointed out various clinical equipment, including some manufactured by Beckman Instruments Inc.

Tipper, the hospital’s senior supervising clinical laboratory technologist, demonstrated how the Astra Ideal and Beckman Array Analyzer worked. The Astra can simultaneously perform 23 blood chemistry tests while the analyzer tests for various types of proteins in a patient’s blood.

This is believed to be the first group of high-ranking clinical chemists from eastern Germany to visit the United States since Germany’s unification last October, according to officials of Fullerton-based Beckman Instruments, which has spent nearly $100,000 to help underwrite the visit.

Beckman executives say they are sowing the seeds for future sales to hospitals in eastern Germany. Since unification, the German government has tried to enhance a number of eastern German services, among them medical care. In 1990, Beckman sold about $50 million worth of equipment to German hospitals, which is roughly 16% of the company’s annual sales in Europe. The German market is expected to grow by at least 10% annually, said Karel Krohne, a Beckman executive serving as the group’s tour guide.

Krohne estimates that Germany’s Ministry of Health will spend billions of dollars in the next 10 years to upgrade about 420 hospitals in the former East Germany. The tour of U.S. hospital facilities included visits to two that use Beckman’s equipment--UCI Medical Center and George Washington University Hospital in Washington.


Ironically, the Beckman equipment observed at UCI Medical Center is more than seven years old and by year’s end will be replaced by blood-testing machines made by competitor Eastman Kodak Co., which UCI’s Tipper said “met our needs better.”

Beckman began a program to loan about $1 million worth of medical equipment to 25 eastern German hospitals last year. The hospitals have an option to eventually buy the equipment under attractive terms, Krohne said.

“We think that in the next several months, they will look at their laboratory requirements and what they’ve seen here will help them decide where to purchase their equipment,” said Krohne, a Dutch citizen who is business manager of Beckman’s Diagnostic Systems Group in Munich.

“We asked ourselves: Are we going to wait (for the funding) or are we going to march forward and introduce them to modern technology? We decided to take the risk and introduce them to Beckman,” he said.

Hospitals in eastern Germany were previously funded by the central Communist government in East Berlin. With unification, these hospitals are being pressed to modernize their equipment and services to become independent.