De­vices: time for in­no­va­tion

Modern Healthcare - - Special Report -

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.

—Shawn Rhea

Alkire: Iso­tope short­age will con­tinue to be a prob­lem.

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