The expedited rise of the infection control market
The global market for infection control and infection prevention products is expected to amount to about $258.3bn in 2025. The most important driver is the worldwide increase in the rate of infections occurring in medical treatment and care facilities. Even leading healthcare systems in industrial countries are facing major economic and social challenges. Investment in patient safety is urgently needed.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), 80,000 patients in Europe are diagnosed with a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) every day. 91,000 patients die as a direct result of HAI in Europe, 99,000 in the USA, and the figures for Germany vary between 400,000 and 1,200,000 HAI deaths per year. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Krankenhaushygiene e.V. (the German Hospital Hygiene Society) has extrapolated figures of between 800,000 and 1,200,000 cases of HAI and 20,000 to 30,000 deaths per year.
In its 2013 quality report, Germany’s aQua Institute, which promotes quality and research in healthcare, estimated 975,000 HAI occurrences per year, and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) put the number of patients becoming infected with pathogens in hospital environments at 400,000 to 600,000. According to the RKI, approximately 10,000 to 15,000 of these hospital infections proved fatal.
A particular threat is posed by the growing number of antibiotic-resistant pathogens involved in cases of HAI. Each year, 55,000 patients in Germany contract an infection involving methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA for short. The consequences are a higher risk of mortality, serious side effects and a prolonged stay in hospital.
One in three infections preventable
There is agreement among experts regarding the non-inevitability of HAI: at least one third of cases could be prevented by consistent infection control measures. Preventive measures focus on hospital hygiene, especially hand and surface hygiene. 90% of pathogens are transmitted by hands. Alcohol-based hand disinfection is the single most important measure in the fight against infection, and could – on its own – reduce the incidence of healthcare-associated infection by up to 40%.
The problem, according to experts, is that hand hygiene compliance must reach 80% if infections are to fall by a significant amount. At present, worldwide compliance is a mere 30%. In Germany, the practice of hand disinfection in situations where it is required is between 41% and 55%, with wide variations between individual healthcare facilities.
Fundamental system change required
By making a positive decision to comply with hand and surface disinfection, people hold the key to reducing infections and the costs they incur. In many facilities, protecting effectively against infection initially requires systemic change – a fundamental shift in organizational and behavioral practice. The World Health Organization (WHO) therefore believes that processes need to be embedded deep in the behavioral habits of healthcare facilities if patients worldwide are to be protected from infection while undergoing treatment. An eight-point plan is intended to assist effective ongoing prevention and containment of multi-resistant pathogens:
- Each facility to establish infection protection and control programs with clearly defined goals, an annual work plan, a defined budget, and appropriate resources
- Compliance with evidence-based guidelines that are adapted to local conditions and monitored for compliance
- Training and education of all employees using participatory and digital methods
- Monitoring: each facility to monitor HAI infections, ensuring sufficient microbiological laboratory capacity is available for the purpose
- Multimodal strategies that have been scientifically proven to be the best strategies for achieving behavioral change
- Monitoring and feedback on employees’ compliance with infection control measures as a key factor for improving hygiene standards
- Bed occupancy and workload based on standard capacities
- Provision of an infrastructure that ensures access to all necessary hygiene materials
Compliance with infection control requirements drives growth
Greater penetration of infection control measures is an important growth factor for the overall market for infection control products. Health facilities will focus more on implementing strategies for early detection, monitoring, prevention and control of HAIs in future. Innovative, on-screen training programs such as apps will help employees implement the necessary infection control measures more frequently and reliably.
A market offering long-term opportunities
Cost pressure due to the age pyramid and multi-resistant pathogens, rising quality requirements, pay-for-performance systems that include hygiene quality, and more stringent regulations are further factors increasing the attractiveness of investments in infection control. Infection control products are becoming an economic lever for reducing cost and boosting quality of care.
Within the next 10 to 20 years, a great potential for infection control products will develop worldwide. However, the main challenge remains: systemic change in healthcare facilities. Companies whose product solutions are based on integrated, process-based models. Switching from products to integrated disinfection systems.
Dr. Ralf NowakPartner
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