Medical technology as a driving force in health care in the United States


An ideal healthcare system is one that cures every patient, regardless of their medical condition. However, healthcare professionals have always had to judge whether they could cure a patient of an illness or simply manage it to allow the patient to live the best possible life. The reality is that many pharmaceutical interventions and treatment options are designed to manage people’s illnesses, but not necessarily to cure them.

This translates into increased pressure on healthcare costs, especially as people live longer and the proportion of diseases that are manageable rather than curable increases, as do demands on long-term care. .

Historically, there are many difficult-to-cure medical conditions, from diabetes to high blood pressure, which means that a “maintenance approach” has been the only option. However, this is expensive and difficult, both in terms of medicine and clinical resources.

But things are changing.

It’s time for a new approach

New interdisciplinary approaches to treatment are rebalancing the scales, exploring non-pharmaceutical interventions (such as dietary changes, exercise, and medical devices) to work alongside or in place of traditional care management techniques.

Take leg ulcers, for example. According to the Wound Healing Society, 15 percent of seniors in the United States suffer from chronic wounds, including venous stasis ulcers, bedsores (bedsores), and diabetic foot ulcers. Each year, an additional 2-3 million Americans are diagnosed with various types of chronic wounds, with the annual cost of treating venous ulcers alone to the U.S. health care system being estimated at $ 2.5 billion to $ 3.5 billion, noting the scale of the growing problem.

These injuries can take months of traditional treatment to heal, if at all. For healthcare professionals, managing the disease and its symptoms is a huge therapeutic challenge. As the incidence of ulcerations increases, due to the aging of the population and the increase in risk factors such as smoking, obesity and diabetes, intervention costs also increase.

However, new medical technology devices are emerging that not only maintain the well-being of people, but provide lifelong treatment for chronic medical conditions. This new generation of technology has the potential to deliver the holy grail of medicine: better patient outcomes at lower cost.

The era of MedTech

Technology is increasingly the “silver bullet” needed to reduce financial strain on healthcare systems while improving patient outcomes. But implementing new medical devices into healthcare systems isn’t easy: it requires time, money, clinical data, regulatory approval, and most importantly, the support of clinicians within the system. Visionaries are not those who try to disrupt the industry, but those who create and implement new medical technology solutions from scratch, with the support of clinicians and those who work within the system.

Taking the example of leg ulcers again, there is now clinical data to show that by increasing blood flow to the wound surface, to improve oxygen and nutrient delivery, ulcers can be healed. rather than just managed – wounds closing in weeks, as opposed to months or not at all.

Managing the care of patients with such conditions is always a complex process. But having received regulatory approval from the US FDA, bioelectronic medical devices that demonstrably increase blood flow to the lower extremities are now being used by forward-thinking clinicians to treat patients with the disease, dramatically reducing the financial and personnel impact on the health system, while achieving better patient outcomes.

Instead of forcing nurses to visit people’s homes three times a week to assess and treat ulcers, connected devices also have the potential to monitor patients remotely and transmit data to healthcare providers, allowing them to more effectively manage treatment plans.

Reshaping healthcare

However, just having these innovative medical devices is only half the battle. The challenge now is to reshape the way health systems reward positive outcomes to allow new solutions to continue to be adopted effectively, rewarding innovation and risk, without destroying what already exists.

The healthcare reimbursement system in the United States presents a unique landscape, in which the process of paying for healthcare products or services is handled by commercial (private) health insurers or government (public) payers. Traditionally, healthcare providers have used a fee-for-service model, which means that they are paid separately for each service they provide, whether or not that service leads to a positive and lasting outcome. For patients with chronic conditions that require long-term management, especially wound care, this can lead to significant medical bills.

But how do you change a system used to paying people to maintain the status quo?

The good news is that the US government has already legislated for the change, which has prompted the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to adopt an episode-based treatment and payment approach. With episode-based payments, the total cost of a patient’s care related to a single medical condition is predetermined, instead of having to pay separately for each service and provider along the way.

Based on the projected costs, a single amount is issued to all healthcare providers and facilities working on the same case, including doctors, hospitals, nurses, medical equipment suppliers and post-acute care operators. . The more efficient providers are at controlling spending and staying within budget, the more they share in potential savings.

This transformative approach means that it is now in the best interests of the patient and the healthcare provider to adopt the best possible treatment plan, using the most effective medical technologies to attempt to cure the patient’s condition.

A better future thanks to medical devices

Medical technology is uniquely positioned to bring about positive change in healthcare, especially in the United States. Instead of trying to ensure the adoption of new innovations within the confines of the previous system, the health system evolves to actively promote adoption.

The hope, at least in the United States, is that this significant change will not only allow for more investment in the development of new medical technologies, but will in turn help reduce the pressure on overall healthcare operations. , creating a brighter, more efficient environment and an affordable system for everyone.

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