The past decades have been a triumph for healthcare. People are living older and older every year, child mortality keeps falling, just to mention a few of the global advancements that have taken place. Still, there are some major issues left to be tackled, all of which are changing how diseases are dealt with and how healthcare actually works.
In this series of two articles, we introduce the biggest trends that are evolving healthcare sector globally. Here are the first three of them.
Usage of disposable medical fabrics may sound self-evident to someone thinking of healthcare from a modern perspective. In Europe and North America, surgical drapes, hospital gowns and other healthcare textiles are almost always made of disposable, single-use materials such as nonwovens but, unfortunately, non-disposable and reusable medical fabrics are still very common in developing economies in South America, Africa and Asia. The good news is that non-disposable medical fabrics are being replaced by disposable ones, slowly but steadily.
Why is it so important to replace, for example, non-disposable surgical drapes with drapes meant to be disposed after a single use? The reason is simple: Using disposable medical nonwovens instead of conventional, reusable textiles reduces infections radically, by more than 50%, according to Moylan et al. It is a key procedure in keeping healthcare professionals and patients safe and healthy.
Chronic diseases, often connected to the aging of population and changing lifestyles, are a global challenge. Take diabetes, a serious chronic disease, for example. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global prevalence of diabetes among adults today is 8.5%, having nearly doubled since 1980. And the percentage is increasing.
While working to prevent diabetes, we have to cope with its complications, which can occur all over human body and increase the risk of premature death. Those complications include, for instance, diabetic ulcers and wounds which can take years to heal. Consequently, people may have to live extended periods of time with diabetic wounds, which requires capable home care and sets the bar high for nonwovens for wound care products. The ideal is to prevent wounds in the first place by keeping skin clean and moisturized with soft and gentle nonwovens used in personal care wipes.
Healthcare models are under a lot of pressure, mostly due to people living longer than ever before. This is reflected in increasing health expenditures. For example, in the United States, health expenditure has increased from 13.1% of gross domestic product in 1995 to 17.1% in 2014, according to the WHO. National healthcare sectors are forced to cut costs which can be seen in, e.g., efforts to minimize the amount of hospital treatment and promote less costly home care.
Medical products must perform well also at home. For instance, incontinence products, such as absorbent bed pads, are valued in home care. Dignity, aesthetic perspectives and, most of all, convenience are highlighted in home care. That is why nonwoven products such as bathing gloves and flushable incontinence wipes are more and more popular in taking care of personal hygiene.
Home care also creates demand for new kind of medical products. In fact, the trend is already visible on retail shelves: Private label advanced wound care products, something never seen before, are available today in some retail stores. Practically these are products that used to be utilized in hospitals only. Another examples of hospital products that are making their way into personal hygiene care at home are shampoo caps and patient gloves for wiping, which can be anything from dry to soap and conditioner-containing multifunctional gloves. And this is only a foretaste of what we will see in the future.