A News Health — 11 September 2015

Never before has there been as much research and development in the field of prostheses.

deka_arm_gen3Myolectric devices and “smart’ technologies are being tied together so that a prosthesis can learn and adapt to the messages sent from the user, blurring the lines between prostheses and limbs – moving ever closer to the prosthetic devices seen in sci-fi films.

Technologies like 3D printing have rewritten the book on customization and cost.

In fact, there has never been a time when so many prosthetic options existed; and yet, access to them may get harder.

Metro-Ad2In a recent report, leading research and consulting firm GlobalData, concluded that the the global market value for prosthetics will rise slowly from just over $1 billion in 2014 to approximately $1.21 billion by 2021, with reimbursement difficulties remaining the largest obstacle to growth in this medical device segment.

According to Jennifer Ryan, GlobalData’s Analyst covering Medical Devices, “Incredible emerging technological advancements in prostheses that improve user comfort and functionality, including devices wired into the user’s nervous system, offer an exciting frontier for market growth during the forecast period, providing reimbursement issues can be resolved.”

“Recent trends in prosthetics focus on socket design for improved user comfort, as well as enhanced device functionality with less user energy expenditure. Particular attention has been paid to upper extremity device improvements, due in part to the number of amputees returning from global conflicts.

While the analyst added that procedures integrating prostheses into the user’s nervous system for optimal device control, including targeted muscle reinnervation and targeted sensory reinnervation, have the potential to drive growth in the prosthetics market, the problem remains that reimbursement is generally capped for prosthetics, limiting access to the most innovative devices, with the majority of patients only receiving a simple prosthesis.

This can be illustrated in the struggle already playing out in the United States, as AmericanNewsReport recently reported on proposed changes in Medicare policy that would greatly reduce the options available to those who need lower limb prostheses. The proposed changes is an an attempt by Medicare to offset rising healthcare costs; however, the proposal (referred to as the Local Coverage Determination for Lower Limb Prostheses) prompted a public hearing in Baltimore organized by the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association in which over 200 prostheses users, prosthetists, and politicians, met to voice their concerns.

According to Ryan: “Tightening healthcare budgets, combined with the extremely high cost of the newest technology, creates complications for payers. As a result, both public and private insurers are increasingly emphasizing the requirement for strong clinical evidence before granting reimbursement for newly-approved, advanced prosthetic devices.”

She continues,“However, the combination of an aging global population, growing amputation numbers due to trauma in emerging markets, and diabetic or vascular complications worldwide, as well as an increased awareness of prosthetic users’ needs, will continue to drive the market.”

We hope that the insurance problems will be resolved, and that amputees will have the access to the prostheses and technologies that are best suited to their needs.

Image DEKA arm courtesy of DEKA Innovative Solutions Corp.

 

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Geoff Sims

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