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26-Aug-2020

Preventative medicine

Preventative medicine

Summary

With the NHS being under considerable pressure not least with the current health crisis, Penny Pinnock, Sales Manager – Healthcare & Public Sector for Siemens Financial Services (SFS) explains why hospitals must look towards more flexible and sustainable ways of financing their investments in new diagnostic equipment.
  • Author Company: Healthcare & Public Sector for Siemens Financial Services
  • Author Name: Penny Pinnock, Sales Manager
Editor: PharmiWeb Editor Last Updated: 27-Aug-2020

Even before the healthcare crisis and its economic impact, growing, ageing populations have been applying pressure to healthcare systems worldwide. In response, preventative medicine has become a vitally important area of development, which intends to help offset the growing burden of increasingly prevalent non-communicable diseases (NCDs) also known as chronic illnesses. By identifying potential health risks early on, action can swiftly be taken to prevent further aggravation of the condition. While the benefits of early detection are evident, adequate access to the high-performance equipment and technology that enable accurate and timely diagnoses is still lacking in the UK.

In terms of availability of diagnostic imaging equipment, the UK falls behind most of its European counterparts, with fewer computed tomography (CT) scanners (8 per million population compared to an EU average of 21.4) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners (6.1 per million compared to an EU average of 15.4) than the rest of Europe.[1] Further analysis of NHS finances has found that capital spending in the UK for healthcare, including equipment acquisition, is low compared with other OECD countries, at 0.3% of GDP compared with an average of 0.5%.[2] This lack of investment can partly be traced back to the multibillion-pound cuts made to the NHS capital budget in recent years.

These cuts are reportedly impeding hospitals from purchasing the most modern scanners and surgical equipment. According to research from the Royal College of Radiologists, 58% of MRI systems in the UK are at least five years old, meaning they may not be able to conduct state-of-the-art imaging, such as that needed for certain types of heart and prostate cancer scanning.[3] Furthermore, 29% of MRI systems in the UK are at least ten years old, and there are no succession plans in place for nearly 40% of MRI systems that are over seven years old.[4] Staff are reportedly using vital diagnostic technology beyond their natural life span because there are insufficient funds to replace them.[5] These machines are at risk of producing unclear images that have the potential to impede diagnosis. While replacing outdated machinery and acquiring modern diagnostic technology is key to preventative medicine, keeping-up with the pace of technological developments requires significant funds, which limited healthcare budgets cannot finance alone.

Improving patient outcomes

Whilst traditionally, cancer research has focused on treatments for late-stage disease, there is a growing realisation from policy-makers and stakeholders that research needs to be reoriented towards early detection and prevention. The quicker and more accurate the diagnosis, the sooner the medical intervention and treatment can begin. Detecting cancer early greatly reduces its impact given that early treatment is generally more effective, less complex or invasive, and less expensive than treatment for the advanced disease. For colon cancer, stage 1 treatment costs £3,373, whereas stage 4 treatment costs £12,519. Furthermore, treatment for stage 3 and 4 colon, rectal, lung and ovarian cancer costs the NHS nearly two and a half times the amount spent on stage 1 and 2 services.[6] Hospitals that adopt the latest medical advances and provide proper diagnostic care will save on any surgical, chemotherapy and radiation costs that may result, due to the correlative relationship between the stage of cancer and the intensity of the treatment needed.  

Reducing hospital congestion

Similarly, slower diagnosis results in congested hospitals, in which staff consequently struggle to deliver the best care and can leave A&E patients waiting longer. Acquiring the latest diagnostic imaging technology helps free up valuable hospital space by reducing bed occupancy.

Furthermore, improving flow through the system helps to reduce the cost associated with hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). Research shows that a hospital stay carries a 5.5% risk of an adverse drug reaction, 17.6% risk of infection, and 3.1% risk of ulcer for an average episode, with each additional night in hospital increasing these risks incrementally.[7] As such, eliminating unnecessary hospital stays helps reduce hospital overcrowding and improve the care environment as a whole.

Intelligent financing techniques

At a time when healthcare funding is under pressure, investing in these new diagnostic technologies can appear to be out-of-reach to some healthcare facilities. Yet, by reducing the inaccuracies and length of the diagnostic processes, these modern technologies can actually help reduce the costs associated with misdiagnosis, prolonged hospital stays, HAIs and reactive treatment.

Intelligent finance solutions such as transition finance, technology upgrade and pay-for-outcomes[8] options are now coming to the fore, which allow NHS Trusts to sustainably invest in new technology without having to commit large sums of capital. Such financing solutions spread the cost of the technology over an agreed financing period, with finance payments arranged to align with the expected benefits of the use of the technology over time, such as improved operational efficiency.  By removing the need for a large initial outlay, finance arrangements like these can help improve cash flow and working capital. Additionally, they have the potential to incorporate other costs such as installation, as well as introducing the flexibility of future affordable technology upgrades, in line with technology developments.

Healthcare financiers who have an in-depth understanding of healthcare technology and its applications can provide these tailored financing packages. 

Siemens Financial Service (SFS) works with Siemens Healthineers, as well as other technology vendors, to provide cost effective financing solutions for a wide variety of medical technology and equipment, enabling healthcare organisations to access the solutions they need without having to commit precious capital budgets.

By choosing to work with a specialist provider of asset finance for the installation or upgrade of their diagnostic technology, healthcare organisations can take important steps to providing appropriate healthcare for an ageing population in a sector facing tight budgets, staff shortages and pressure from the current health crisis and its economic impact.  

 


 

[1] The King’s Fund – How does the NHs compare internationally? June 2017: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/articles/big-election-questions-nhs-international-comparisons

[2] The Guardian – Hospitals struggling to afford new equipment after NHS budget cuts, May 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/22/hospitals-struggling-to-afford-new-equipment-after-nhs-budget-cuts

[3] The Royal College of Radiologists, 2017 - https://www.rcr.ac.uk/posts/nhs-must-do-more-future-proof-its-mri-capacity-say-imaging-experts

[4] Ibid

[5] The Guardian – Hospitals struggling to afford new equipment after NHS budget cuts, May 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/22/hospitals-struggling-to-afford-new-equipment-after-nhs-budget-cuts

[6] Cancer Research UK, Saving lives, averting costs, an analysis of the financial implications of achieving earlier

diagnosis of colorectal, lung and ovarian cancer, 2014

[7] Imperial College London

[8] In this context, ‘pay for outcomes’ relates to financial solutions where the customer doesn’t need to commit one large lump sum of capital, such as a lease. In addition, payments are predicated on the expected business benefits, or “outcomes”, that the technology makes possible.