Market Analysis: Patient-Monitoring Equipment

Market Analysis: Patient-Monitoring Equipment
12/1/2009 12:00:00 AM by: Jennifer Patterson LorenzettiThe U.S. market for patient-monitoring equipment is a healthy one. This product category includes bedside and tabletop monitors as well as personal, implantable and wearable monitors, and it encompasses monitors for vital signs, electromyograms, electroencephalograms, sleep apnea, cerebral meters, fetal and neonate monitoring, pulse oximetry, cardiac output, blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol monitoring. According to the Dublin, Ireland-based research firm Research and Markets, the U.S. patient-monitoring market could reach as high as $8 billion by 2015, with other research firms posting somewhat less-optimistic projections.

Several trends affect the current market for patient-monitoring equipment, and these factors will affect the market for pre-owned equipment as well. However, the most important trend for healthcare organizations is the need to wirelessly network their equipment to provide better, more current information to the clinicians providing care.

Wireless Access, Networking and EMRs

Patient-monitoring equipment is going the way of most information technology equipment with a focus on networked equipment, rather than standalone monitors, and wireless transmission of data. According to Wellesly, Mass.-based research firm BCC Research, networked monitors accounted for just over a third of the market in 2007, and these are expected to account for somewhat less than half of the market by 2013. Over the same period, the firm predicts wirelessly networked monitors will increase from 13 percent to 15 percent of the market.

“Wireless is becoming a big part of the market,” says Neil Little, sales specialist for Topline Medical in Fargo, N.D. He explains that ensuring wireless access throughout a hospital or other healthcare establishment can involve a significant upgrade in infrastructure. “The IT department is becoming involved; there are infrastructure costs for access points. The labor costs alone are staggering,” he says. Furthermore, not only are there significant labor costs involved in installation, the costs also extend to continual network maintenance and staff training.

Much of the drive toward wireless networking is related to the increased focus on electronic medical records and paperless record keeping. As increasing amounts of data are being stored electronically, it has become critical for healthcare organizations to ensure that this data is available across the organization, as it is needed. “[It has become] more important for monitoring to interface with information systems,” says Topline Medical partner Dan Bye. “The challenge is that everyone has a lot of equipment [that generates] information, which needs to be put together to provide useful outputs to clinicians.”

Clinicians certainly appreciate the wealth of data now available to them as they care for patients, a vast improvement over paper charts and extended time for delivery of physical records. However, this means that there is a great deal of extra data to be taken into account when deciding on care for patients.

Bye explains that this problem is addressed by some of the current-generation monitoring equipment. Some of this equipment comes with smart analytics that produce types of “checklists” that remind clinicians of possible problems to investigate or treatment steps to take. “They see the report and decide if that is appropriate.”

Self-Monitoring Equipment
The market for wirelessly networked monitoring equipment is also being driven by an increased interest in saving patient and insurer dollars in healthcare treatment. According to a report by the Cleveland-based market research firm The Fredonia Group, “Among newer product introductions, transtelephonic remote monitors will see the fastest growth in demand as they hold promising potential to save healthcare costs by reducing the need for hospitalizations and outpatient episodes.”

The patient-monitoring equipment market is also showing an increase in self-monitoring products and equipment suitable for the primary-care environment. Part of this is due to an increased focus on preventative care and an increased emphasis toward using primary care to improve therapeutic outcomes and efficiencies.

However, the trend is also driven by continual increases in the number of patients with chronic conditions, including asthma, diabetes and heart disorders. Consistent with this pattern, The Freedonia Group predicts that blood-glucose supplies will remain the top patient-monitoring accessory, particularly the new generation of electrochemical glucose test strips.

Before You Upgrade
Clearly, few healthcare organizations will be able to upgrade all monitoring equipment simultaneously, so it’s necessary to set priorities. Little remarks that telemetry equipment is the most common need for upgrade. “This all runs into money – and lots of it. You have to figure out what you can do with what you’ve got,” he says. He notes that buying pre-owned equipment in this arena can often save half of the cost over new.

Purchasers also need to factor in the expense of continual maintenance of their equipment, a place where savvy shopping can play a role. For instance, Derek Giulianelli, of Golden, Colo.-based Echoserve, notes that, “Newer equipment is much harder to service and repair; that’s just the way the OEMs are.” Nonetheless, healthcare organizations can often save money by contracting with organizations other than the manufacturer for ongoing maintenance. “The goal is to not have these under contract,” Giulianelli says. Healthcare organizations, he says, then have the option to “repair [equipment] themselves or send it to a third party like us.”

On the Horizon
Just has healthcare organizations are jumping on the wireless bandwagon, changes in the predominant technology may alter the way for the next generation of patient-monitoring equipment. “In June 2009, the [Federal Communications Commission] issued a notice of proposed rule making to allocate radio spectrum establishing a new, vendor-neutral, dedicated radio frequency for low-power, short-range wireless patient medical devices, such as Body Sensor Networks (BSNs),” explains David Freeman, general manager, Parameters, for GE Healthcare.

“BSNs would eliminate the need for wires, and could replace the traditional tangle of bedside cables used to capture a patient’s vital signs. As envisioned, BSNs would consist of miniaturized body-worn sensors that collect critical patient-specific information, and communicate them to where they can be accessed by doctors and nurses, enabling efficient monitoring of patient vital signs no matter where the patient is located in the hospital – or even remotely from the patient’s home,” Freeman further explains.

These BSN could aid in the transportation of patients, allow patients to be more mobile, reduce the risk of infection and the workload of sterilization, and improve workflow. It’s just another way that patient-monitoring equipment is becoming a seamless part of patient-care activities throughout the hospital or clinic.

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