May 17, 2020

mHealth Could Save Developed World $400bn

healthcare
mHealth
mobile health
telehealth
Admin
3 min
mHealth Could Cut Hospital Costs By $400bn
Last week Healthcare Global reported that mHealth could save more than one million lives in Africa according to a report published by GSMA and Pricewat...

Last week Healthcare Global reported that mHealth could save more than one million lives in Africa according to a report published by GSMA and PricewaterhouseCoopers. That same report also suggests that the developed world could save in excess of $400bn by 2017.

As we have reported in the past, there are challenges associated with adopting mHealth solutions, for example regulatory concerns, the expense and time commitment needed to implement new systems, differences of opinion between medical and technology communities and confidentiality questions to name just a few.

However, as doctor shortages mount and hospitals face new mandates related to accountability and electronic records, many in the industry are looking to mobile devices, applications and other programs to improve patient care, lower costs and drive efficiency.

Implemented correction, mHealth solutions can drive efficiency, improve patient care and ultimately save healthcare institutions a lot of money.

Healthcare Global Outlines Four Ways Mobile Health Could Help Cut Costs >>>

Mobile Care For Sudden Health Incidents

Telehealth uptake is increasing at a rapid rate – a recent report estimates it could grow by 55 percent this year alone – and therefore mobile-based solutions are becoming commonplace for immediate care. The GSMA and PwC report estimates that mobile-based care for patients with sudden health incidents could reduce primary and emergency care visits by a massive 10 percent. Already, companies like Sherpaa and Ringadoc let patients reach physicians 24/7 by phone, text or email.

Remote Patient Home Monitoring

In non-emergency situations, mobile technology could also play a role in helping doctors keep tabs on elderly or recently discharged patients remotely. With Sotera Wireless, for example, doctors can monitor patients’ blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and other indicators through a flip-phone-sized device worn on a patient’s wrist. GSMA and PwC estimate that remote monitoring technology could lead to elderly care savings of up to 25 percent and improve patients’ quality of life.

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Mobile Access To Electronic Health Records

As more hospitals migrate to electronic medical records (EMR), patient information will increasingly be captured and accessed from mobile devices. PatientSafe, for example, plugs into several EMR systems and lets doctors and nurses log patient information (like temperature, blood pressure, etc.) and manage other workflow tasks from a specially adapted iPod Touch. According to PwC and GSMA, mobile access to electronic health records could lower the administrative burden on hospitals by 20 to 30 percent.

SMS Reminders For Scheduling Appointments (And Taking Medication)

SMS could also play a big role in reducing health costs and improving patient care. Appointment reminder services, like that offered by Medisafe, have been shown to reduce costs and boost patient attendance. Companies like Blueprint Health’s AllazoHealth and AdhereTech use SMS (and other kinds of communication) to remind patients to take their medication after sensors or algorithms note when a patient hasn’t taken medication or is likely to skip it.

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Jun 19, 2021

Driving sustainability in medical device production

medicaldevices
Sustainability
recycling
biotechnology
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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