A Medical Device Daily

The London office of the global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan has issued a report indicating that customer preference for “one-stop shopping“ strategies is compelling manufacturers in the European anesthesia and respiratory equipment market to offer integrated solutions and develop data management systems using efficiency enhancing computer technology.

According to the report, the European healthcare market since the mid-1990s has favored purchasing integrated solutions rather than packaged or stand-alone solutions. “Spurred by the advantages of being able to negotiate with a centralized point of contact and secure better prices for comprehensive packages,“ it said, “hospitals have sought to purchase all-inclusive solutions“ that incorporate a range of anesthesia equipment and technical services from a single manufacturer.

“The industry must capitalize on the trend toward integrated anesthesia patient monitoring machines by clearly communicating to physicians and surgeons the benefits of such new integrated solutions,“ said Frost & Sullivan healthcare analyst Fiona Rahman. She said that other keys to success for those competing in the market are “re-engineering“ cost-effective methods of bringing new products to the market and ways of maintaining and improving company profitability and market share.“

The report adds that technological upgrades in ventilators and monitoring capabilities in machines, along with a demand for advanced measurements, are mandating the introduction of new parameters, further spurring market expansion.

Electronic control is another feature on which manufacturers are focusing and the successful introduction of computer technology in the operating room is expected to have a positive impact. The move from a mechanical to an electronic, more user-friendly model is poised to support a greater and more fluid interaction between various components.

Frost & Sullivan said anesthesia machines and workstations “have advanced significantly over the last decade, with the latest equipment incorporating valveless technologies, high/low flow rates and low internal volumes to reduce overall cost of anesthesia delivery by reducing the amount of anesthesia agent [used].“

It said the integration of microprocessor-controlled ventilation technologies is providing further options in achieving more accurate changes from one parameter to the other.

“Since integrated machines are becoming widely used by European hospitals, the market is set to benefit from the major technological changes happening in both the ventilators and patient monitoring systems market,“ said Rah-man. “Thus, data management systems or computer technology are important driving factors.“

Estimated at $315.3 million in 2004, the European anesthesia and respiratory equipment market is forecast to reach $360.8 million in 2011. In 2004, anesthesia machines and workstations accounted for 42% of the total market revenues, followed by patient monitoring systems and ventilators.

Rahman said that by 2011, even as the market share for anesthesia machines/workstations and patient monitoring systems is projected to experience marginal expansion, the relative share of ventilators is expected to decline.

What she characterized as “significant consolidation and a high degree of collaboration and alliance between companies“ has been driven, Rahman said, “by the need to rapidly produce new integrated solutions.“

Manufacturers striving to build a more complete monitoring package have focused their efforts on promoting a complete portfolio of anesthesia, patient monitoring and respiratory products under one brand.

At the same time, market players also have focused on achieving product differentiation via flexible design and comprehensive technical support. “More compact products for easier location placement, better transportation and increased patient-interactive ventilation are also being developed,“ Rahman said.

Propelled by a leading position in the patient monitoring systems market across Europe, the Datex-Ohmeda unit of GE Healthcare is the overall market leader, holding a 37% market share, followed at 32% by Drager Medical, she said.

Rally against pension cuts

Hundreds of members of the Amicus public employees union gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, last Friday to protest against government changes proposed for public-sector pensions.

Amicus members in the National Health Service (NHS) and local authorities were demonstrating against pension changes that include the raising of the compulsory retirement age and a move from final-salary pension plans to pension earnings calculated on career average salaries.

Amicus say the proposed changes would have a “devastating“ effect on public sector workers' expected incomes in retirement and would impact recruitment and retention in sectors already suffering from skills shortages.

John Quigley, the Amicus regional secretary for Scotland, said, “Our public sector members work in demanding professions and are often on lower pay than in the private sector. One of the few saving graces for public sector employment has been good pension provision and now they are facing substantial cuts. We fear that if the government goes through with this it will damage morale and make it harder to recruit staff.“

Long-term waiting list falls

The number of patients for whom English health commissioners are responsible waiting more than nine months for hospital admissions as of the end of December had fallen to 86, according to the latest Department of Health statistics. That is 34,000 lower than in December 2003.

Of those 86 patients, 12 were English residents waiting in Welsh hospitals. In all, 24 patients on the list were waiting more than 12 months, including four waiting in Welsh National Health Service trusts.

The total number of patients waiting to be admitted to NHS hospitals in England as of year-end 2004 was 858,000, an increase of 14,100 since the end of November, but a fall of 115,000 from the December 2003 figures.