May 17, 2020

Are high costs causing an unhealthy relationship with patients?

3 min
Price transparency will not only prepare your patients for their financial obligations, it will also reduce the chances of price shock when medical bills do come around.
With healthcare costs and insurance premiums on the rise, there's never been a better time to set a positive tone for cost discussions with your pat...

With healthcare costs and insurance premiums on the rise, there's never been a better time to set a positive tone for cost discussions with your patients.

The cost of medical care can shock your hospital patrons, which is why it's so important to fully explain the costs involved.

Here are just a few pointers for doing just that:

Be as transparent as possible

Medical care is a need for millions of patients worldwide. As a result, your medical practice needs to be as transparent as possible with all of its costs.

RELATED: How hospitals are integrating Obamacare to reduce costs

Price transparency will not only prepare your patients for their financial obligations, it will also reduce the chances of price shock when medical bills do come around.

Having an in-depth discussion with patients about procedure costs and ancillary fees is an important part of the healthcare process.

Most patients will have health insurance coverage, so it's also wise to discuss the costs their insurance providers cover and the out-of-pocket expenses in which the patients themselves should expect to pay.

Explain all costs and fees

As the following article looks at, price transparency is only part of the equation when it comes to how to set a positive tone for cost discussions with patients at your practice.

A large part of making your patients feel comfortable with their financial obligations is fully explaining all of the costs and fees involved with medical procedures.

One of your goals as a physician is making sure your patients know exactly what's taking place in a procedure and what they're expected to pay for each service. The procedure itself will be the majority of the cost, but explaining any and all fees is also helpful.

RELATED: Rising cancer drug costs lead to doctor protests against Big Pharma

Unexpected hospital fees are one of the main causes of price shock with patients.

From emergency department charges to daily ICU and monitored care charges to laboratory fees, do your best to explain fees before the procedure takes place.

Offer payment solutions

Once you've explained all of the costs and fees involved with a particular medical procedure, you'll also want to provide your patients with payment solutions. Even patients with health insurance coverage can't always afford the insurance premiums involved.

Most hospitals and small practices offer payment plans, which allow patients to make monthly installments to pay off their medical expenses.

RELATED: The one thing every hospital can do to improve operations and reduce costs

Likewise, a growing number of physicians are also willing to negotiate with patients to come up with a lower price for certain procedures.

Answer questions in a timely manner

Throughout the cost discussion process, you should be open for any and all pricing questions that come your way. After all, as a physician, you're responsible for ensuring that your patients are comfortable with every aspect of the treatment process.

With that said, it's also important to answer questions in a timely manner. Whether a patient emails a question about post-op expenses or lab work costs make sure you respond as soon as possible.

Even if you don't have an answer at that time, communicating with your patients will help put their financial concerns at ease.

If you want to create healthy relationships between your practice and its patients, then make it your goal to set a positive tone with cost discussions.


About the Author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including healthcare and finances.

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Jun 19, 2021

Driving sustainability in medical device production

George I’ons
5 min
George I’ons, Head of Product Strategy and Insights at Owen Mumford Pharmaceutical Services on how technology is driving sustainability 

Environmental protection and stewardship are rapidly rising to the top of the corporate agenda and medical device businesses are no exception. The healthcare sectors of the United States, Australia, Canada, and England combined emit an estimated 748 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year, an output greater than the carbon emissions of all but six nations worldwide. In order to curb this situation various European standards have been introduced. 

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE); Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS); Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) and the Energy Using Products (EuP) regulations have all significantly altered manufacturing processes, specific labelling, compliance with disposal restrictions, and creation of instructions for end-of-life management and recycling.

At the moment many medical devices are currently exempt from these regulations but several directives, including RoHS and WEEE, are in the process of being reviewed and could be applicable in future. This is especially relevant for devices that are ‘connected’ and have a digital monitoring component which then brings them under the regulatory purview of authorities that govern devices with electronic components.

Safety, Usability and Sustainability

While medical device manufacturers have been working to respond to increasing demand for environmental sustainability from the market, they also have to contend with a key element of their mission: to ensure safety and usability to healthcare workers and patients. Parenteral and other invasive devices are strictly regulated to help reduce the risk of Healthcare Acquired Infection which typically runs as high as 5% and 8% in most developed countries, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. As a result, they typically contain disposable single-use plastic elements.

At the same time, many hospitals and purchasing organisations have started to recognise that sustainable purchasing practices play a pivotal role in reducing costs over time. Many GPOs have appointed and empowered Senior Directors of Environmentally Preferred Sourcing who are successfully implementing the sustainable purchasing business case. In addition global pharmaceutical companies are increasingly creating senior positions with sustainability objectives as key to the role.

Medical device disposal is a particularly burning issue; generally carried out through incineration in the EU, it typically releases nitrous oxide, as well as known carcinogens including polychlorinated biphenyls, furans and dioxins. Some of the strategies trialled by manufacturers to reduce waste matter destined to incineration include sterilisation and reprocessing.

Sterilisation, however, falls short on the environmental front, and may consume more energy and produce more emissions than incineration itself. In the United States for example, 50% of all sterile medical devices are sterilised with ethylene oxide but since this method releases harmful emissions, the US Food and Drug Administration is now encouraging the development of new methods or technologies. Many other established sterilisation methods use glutaraldehyde that is not only harmful to the environment but also tends to be regulated by strict usage and disposal rules such as COSSH guidelines.

Focus on Recycling

The outlook on recycling is changing significantly thanks to new research and technologies enabling, for example, monomer extraction. Recycled polymers can be broken down to their constituent monomers promoting an almost limitless recyclability of some polymers. In addition to this, Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), renewable polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) can be recycled several times without losing critical properties.

Reducing the impact of packaging can also significantly reduce the materials that need to be dealt with through either waste or recycling. Packaging manufacturers are decreasing packaging volume by favouring sealed trays instead of pouches, laser-etching instructions directly on to the tray where regulation permits it, or reducing the number of components required overall. In addition to this, for recycling plans to be successful it important to have a full understanding of the practices surrounding device use and to establish, where possible,  closed loop recycling systems that recover the waste materials from hospitals or patients and bring them back into the recycling process.

Sustainable Manufacturing: Technology and Research

Greater employment of fast degrading plastics or material from other sources is a key strategy to reduce harmful pollutants both at production and disposal stage. Bio-based materials can in fact offset the carbon emitted during processing as the monomer source grows, and a growing range of sources for bio based monomers -such as wood pulp or sugar cane- is available. However, when assessing the most suitable material for a part, the entire lifecycle of the product needs to be considered. For example: bio-degradable polymers can contaminate a recycling stream and emit methane when incinerated.

The use of environmentally friendly materials should also be supported by an increase in clean renewable energy sources. Lower energy consumption means fewer carbon emissions but also financial savings, making this an appealing measure for manufacturers. New technologies are proving a major gamechanger on this front, helping manufacturers marry their environmental stewardship with cost savings and efficiency.  3D printing, for example, can help develop optimum product moulds more quickly, refining production parameters to minimise raw materials volumes and maximising output productivity.

Similarly, ‘digital twin’ production software uses inline sensors to create a virtual, real-time mirror of the production environment to enable inline refinements. The objective is to achieve “zero defect”, waste-free manufacturing. In addition to this, LEAN manufacturing methodologies are already helping to optimise inventory management and reduce overproduction. 

Sustainability by Design

It is increasingly clear that effective environmental sustainability in the medical device sector cannot exist without a full view of the product life cycle from concept development, material selection, design and engineering to manufacturing, packaging, transportation, sales, use, and end-of-life disposal. These evaluations are typically made for factors such as manufacturing efficiency, time to market, or safety and regulatory compliance, packaging and transportation costs, but should be extended to energy efficiency and environmental impact by means such as life cycle analysis.  

In addition to this, with devices rapidly becoming more digitally connected, developers need to be aware that the costs of disposable electronics would simply not be viable, or indeed acceptable in the light of electronics disposal regulations. Design therefore should focus on creating a simple, repeatable interface between the two component sections so as not to impair the functionality or efficacy. As reducing waste and harmful emissions continues to exert businesses and governments globally, the medical devices industry cannot stand by. The environmental but also commercial implications of inaction are too serious and the array of solutions now available is exciting and diverse.

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