Devices: time for innovation
If 2009 was the year of big and radical ideas in healthcare, 2010 will likely be the year that details for many of those ideas are fleshed out and implemented. On the imaging front, the production of medical isotopes, a nuclear reactor byproduct used in imaging procedures, will continue to be a problem, says Mike Alkire, president of the group purchasing organization Premier Purchasing Partners. Isotopes have been in short supply since the shutdown of Ontario’s Chalk River reactor in May 2009.
Temporary maintenance shutdowns of other facilities exacerbated the problem and caused worldwide prices to increase by double digits over the past 18 months. Congress and President Barack Obama have proposed allocating $183 million through various funding sources for development of a U.S.-based nuclear plant to produce medical-grade isotopes. Expect lawmakers and other stakeholders to remain focused on getting the project under way.
Researchers and patient advocates will turn a sharper eye toward the safety of imaging procedures following highly publicized cases of excess radiation doses in conjunction with CT perfusion head scans and the release of studies that showed CT scans deliver higher radiation doses than expected.
The uses of cell phones will continue to expand as medical-product developers look for ways to make technology more affordable and available to access-challenged communities, says John Bigalke, vice chairman of the board and national managing partner of Deloitte’s Life Sciences and Healthcare practice. Already, researchers are adapting basic cell-phone technology so that the devices can act as microscopes and stethoscopes.
Bigalke says healthcare providers can expect to see similar types of innovation using readily available, inexpensive technology in the coming year, especially in international markets.
If the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which has been folded into reform bills in the House and Senate, becomes law, an increasing number of healthcare providers and medical product companies this year would be required to publicly disclose the existence and dollar amount of consulting agreements between medical professionals and industry.
And with patent protection on nearly 20 brand-name drugs expiring, look for large pharmaceutical companies to scramble to snap up smaller companies that have promising new drugs in development.
Alkire: Isotope shortage will continue to be a problem.