This is the second article in the series introducing the biggest trends that are evolving healthcare sector globally. Click here to read the first article.
Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) constitute a massive global challenge and hundreds of millions of patients suffer of them every year. HAIs are often connected to surgeries but there are also other circumstances where human skin is injured and infection may occur. Bedridden people, for instance, may suffer of pressure ulcers, also known as bed sores, which are caused by prolonged pressure to skin, especially over shoulders, hips and other bony areas.
In surgeries, the appropriate use of drapes, gowns and surface cleaning with disinfectant wipes contributes to prevention of HAIs. Outside the operating room, proper skin care is essential since the cleanliness and condition of skin has a major effect on the development of pressure ulcers. This concerns especially fragile and papery skin which has to be cared without irritating or stretching the skin, preferably with wipes made of very soft nonwoven, such as FIBRELLA®.
As we learned above, injuring skin exposes to infections and therefore using a needle to deliver drugs is not the best option. Instead, non-invasive drug delivery, which does not involve swallowing either, is preferred. Transdermal patches that are put on the skin to deliver the medicine into the bloodstream are the best examples of products in this category. Although patches may seem like a trade-off when compared to needles and pills, they are not. Instead, they are as effective.
Nicotine patches are probably the best known products utilizing transdermal delivery. New products, however, are entering the market and they vary from hormonal to vitamin supplement patches and painkillers in the form of patches. This illustrates the vast possibilities of transdermal patches. Today, they are most common in the United States but the demand is picking up speed all over the world. For nonwovens, this creates a huge possibility, since they could be used as components in patches. Thanks to their textile-like feel, nonwoven patches would be much more comfortable to use than conventional patches.
Sustainability is a massive megatrend which extends also to healthcare. From the social perspective of sustainability, availability of sufficient healthcare services to everyone is a big challenge and on the economic side, the cost of healthcare for an individual is something that puzzles societies. The environmental aspects should not be forgotten either.
For instance, manufacturing and transporting all the products needed by the healthcare sector consumes water and causes emissions but with advanced production technologies and smart supply chain management, negative impacts can be reduced. In this matter, local manufacturing of goods is the key solution which not only helps fight climate change but also reduces transportation expenses. Another beneficial procedure is, of course, to use less natural resources in manufacturing and favor renewable raw materials, preferably certified raw materials.
One of the biggest environmental issue in healthcare is the waste that the facilities produce. There is a lot of it and much effort is put into reducing the amount of waste but healthcare cannot go zero waste due to disposable medical fabrics being such a critical need. Actually, it is not the quantity but the quality of the waste that constitutes the big problem. According to the WHO, 15% of healthcare waste may be infectious, toxic or radioactive and is therefore considered hazardous. It must be disposed and destroyed safely, something that is difficult to accomplish if the awareness is lacking and waste management equipment is inadequate.
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