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Combining advanced medical and information technologies offers pathway to lower health care costs

Washington D.C. (September 22, 2008): Integrating sophisticated medical technologies for patient monitoring with advanced information systems and clinical expertise has the potential to significantly improve medical care while lowering treatment costs. This is especially true for patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes, today said an international panel of experts, including New Zealand medical device developer, Zephyr Technology ( The panelists discussed the critical role of technology in improving medical care and reducing treatment costs, as well as U.S. and global challenges surrounding the adoption and reimbursement of such advanced technologies as part of the AdvaMed 2008 MedTech Conference, being held September 21 24 in Washington, D.C.

Health care costs have been rising globally, causing concerns about the sustainability of providing high quality care to populations on an equitable basis. The financial burden to payers is substantial, making the short-term cost of advances increasingly prominent in the introduction of new technologies. Yet many of these new medical technologies are positioned to provide better, earlier diagnosis and treatment of diseases, with fewer side effects and better outcomes than alternative treatment regimens leading to lower health care costs over the course of a patient's illness. This is particularly true in the area of chronic illnesses, like diabetes, where early detection and treatment of potentially costly complications can provide significant savings and new real-time, remote monitoring technology can better enable patients to receive care at home, thus avoiding costly hospital stays.

For example, New Zealand's Zephyr has developed "Smart Fabric" technology for real-time patient monitoring that uses various off the shelf textiles that are integrated with small unobtrusive electronic modules integrated with garments or straps. Comfortable to wear and designed to work in ambulatory environments, these sensors detect key metabolic functions (i.e. breathing rate, activity, posture, temperature and heart rate) then determine alarm status using multiple sensors and communicate with local and internet based health monitoring applications via standard wireless technologies such as Bluetooth. This provides the patient with total freedom without compromising data integrity or patient safety.

Brian Russell, Zephyr Chief Executive Officer, told Advamed audiences that U.S. payers were becoming more accepting of the importance of preventive care, making it easier to gain reimbursement for products like the company's diabetic shoe inner soles, which detect conditions leading to foot ulceration, thus significantly reducing the risk of ulceration, infection and amputation in diabetic patients.

The clinical benefit and potential cost savings offered by such technologies was underscored by Dr. David G. Armstrong, DPM, PhD, Professor of Surgery, University of Arizona College of Medicine and Director of the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA), a noted expert on diabetes care, who said that the current expenditures for caring for the feet of people with diabetes exceeded the annual revenues of the U.S. cell phone industry.

Unfortunately, with third-party payers still seeing technology costs as a significant contributor to the rise in overall healthcare expenses, barriers to adoption of new medical technologies are increasing in North America, noted Dr. Liesl Cooper, Vice President - Health Economics, Policy and Reimbursement, Covidien. "For example, appropriate third-party payment categories do not yet exist for many medical technologies, which is limiting their development and successful introduction. As a result, important strategic considerations, including the need for realistic timeframes for technology adoption, must be taken into account in preparing new technologies for a successful launch within this market."

At the same time, many medical device companies are increasing their efforts to expand throughout Asia in response to a fast rising demand for advanced medical technologies. "Within Asian markets, shifting policy and market access barriers continue to make countries like Japan, China and India difficult to navigate," commented Chris Miller, Vice President, Government and Industry Affairs, Medtronic Asia Pacific. "As a result, companies need to identify and consider the key policy and reimbursement elements affecting medical technology with each market as they look to expand their global reach."

The AdvaMed 2008 panel, held on September 22 from 9 10:30 am ET, was sponsored and organized by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (


Contact: Joan Kureczka
Kureczka/Martin Associates

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