Follow the Money

Author: 
Shana Leonard
Nothing motivates people quite like money—except, perhaps, the threat of losing it. In the wake of changes to payment policies regarding hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), hospitals are ramping up efforts to support infection prevention. Along with increased precautions taken in-house, hospitals are looking to medical device makers for help in the form of antimicrobial technologies. And that means that the pressure is on for medical device OEMs and suppliers alike.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that HAIs are responsible for roughly 1.7 million infections each year in American hospitals. Furthermore, they are associated with 99,000 deaths per annum. Such staggering statistics, coupled with the fact that many of these conditions are preventable, have spurred some changes in hospital hand-washing and internal policies as well as a growing interest in antimicrobial-equipped medical products.

But it wasn’t until 2009, it seems, that there was a noticeable spike in infection-prevention techniques and demand for antimicrobial technologies. This interest can likely be traced back to new payment policies enacted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on October 1, 2008, at the behest of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. With medical error–related costs burning an estimated $17 to $29 billion per year, CMS was asked to identify high-cost, preventable, hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) that would be subject to quality payment adjustments. Among those subject to this revised reimbursement strategy were such HAIs as catheter-associated urinary tract, vascular catheter-associated, and some types of surgical-site infections.

With money at stake, hospitals have renewed efforts in infection prevention. In turn, medical device manufacturers need to work with suppliers to make products capable of keeping bacteria at bay or reducing instances of infection in order to remain competitive. All eyes are especially on you, catheter manufacturers.

Luckily, it seems as though many of you have been doing your homework. Josh Simon, senior product manager at Biocoat Inc., a coatings provider that recently joined forces with Agion to offer antimicrobial protection to its products, reports an upsurge in hits in 2009 on antimicrobial-related content on the company’s Web site and e-mail alerts. Likewise, Clariant Corp. has witnessed an uptick in interest and the action to back it up. “We have experienced an increase in antimicrobial inquiries for thermoplastics from the consumer and medical markets,” says Brett Watkins, technical product manager. “Our sales in this product line were up by 25% in 2009. Active projects for antimicrobial products experienced an increase of 30% in 2009.”

We at MPMN have even seen the effects: Four of the top 10 most-viewed articles on our Web site in 2009 focused on antimicrobial technologies. And MPMN will continue to cover the latest bacteria-fighting technologies in 2010. After all, as Lloyd Fishman, president of antimicrobial stopcock supplier Elcam Medical notes, “Better hand washing and other manual techniques are important, but this also needs to be supported by the superior technologies available in order to achieve the clinical and financial goals of reduced infections in the healthcare environment.”