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The global healthcare market is estimated to be $6 trillion in 2013 and is expected to reach $12 trillion over the next decade. The pace of growth over a relatively short time offers abundant opportunities for manufacturers to offer products to satisfy new demands.  As an advanced materials supplier to both the medical device and semiconductor industry, Materion is in a unique position to anticipate customer requirements in the emerging medical market.

Stage Set for Rapid Global Growth

The massive rise in projected healthcare spending can be directly attributed to an aging global population and growing household incomes. The United States spends roughly $8,600 per capita or 17% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare costs. In most European countries, Canada and Japan, roughly $3,000 per capita or 8% of GDP is spent on healthcare. Contrast this to China, where only $19 per capita is currently spent on healthcare.  China is predicting that over the next decade its healthcare spending will grow from $19 to $169 per capita. While this is relatively small compared to the developed nations, for a country with over 1.3 billion citizens, it represents a nine-fold increase in healthcare spending.

Rising Costs Force Changes

The projected 10-year growth forecast for the healthcare industry is on what many would consider an unsustainable growth trajectory.  Governments across the world are looking in-depth at ways to cut costs. Hospitals and healthcare providers in the United States are being forced to reduce services and staff as Medicare reimbursements are slashed.  The Affordable Healthcare Law is mandating that healthcare providers take certain steps, like the adoption of electronic medical records, the reduction of hospital borne illnesses, and the reduction in cost of lifesaving medical devices, in order to fulfill the promise of lower insurance reimbursements.

Leveraging Technology to Reduce Expenses

Medical device companies are scrambling to strike a balance between developing cutting-edge lifesaving technologies, complying with government regulations and reducing costs sufficiently to remain profitable. These new realities in healthcare are creating an interesting marriage of medical device functionality with semiconductor technology. Since Materion provides precious metal and non-precious materials to both these industries, we expect to respond to the increased demand.

Patient Empowerment

A tangible subset of the overall healthcare industry is the medical device market. This $342 billion market (global) includes everything from imaging equipment, hip implants, vascular stents, hearing aids, pacemakers to simple items like catheters. This is the segment that could realize the greatest cost benefit from a convergence of semiconductor sensor technology and medical devices.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than for diabetes care. Where it was once commonplace for diabetics to have multiple expensive trips to the emergency room annually, now they can control their disease more accurately from the comfort of their home. Information from insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) equipment can now connect to a wireless network for convenient upload to "the cloud" and rapid download to a doctor's office. Any treatment adjustments and recommendations can be made without the need for an office visit. This same wireless connectivity can benefit a patient with an implantable cardiac rhythm management device or a patient struggling with sleep apnea. In many cases a mobile device with an app can be the portal for relaying critical medical information to a healthcare provider.

The trend toward semiconductors and medical devices contributes to overall health and wellness. Mobile apps can track pounds and calories with wireless scales that upload directly to smartphones and wristbands. There are devices that can track exercise and monitor sleep activity. The use of medical devices empower individuals to take a greater hand in their health care management and can lead to a reduction in traditional doctor visits and ultimately in healthcare costs.

Enabling Technology for the Medical Market

Materion is committed to providing the materials and technological expertise to support the growing medical industry.  Our varied manufacturing techniques and broad materials knowledge are leverage points that allow us to provide solutions to customers. We develop materials that provide increased reliability and durability in many types of equipment used in lasers, surgery/laparoscopic/endoscopic devices, imaging, cardiology, diagnostic sensors and monitoring equipment.

Among our product contributions are EVAPro®, which increases fab yield performance and antimicrobial sputtered films (silver) for the treatment of burn victims. Our experience serving the semiconductor market with precious metals also means that we understand the pressures associated with a cost-sensitive manufacturing environment. 

Article excerpt from Materion Microelectronics & Services newsletter, Stats and Chats, September 2013 issue.

Editor's Note:  While the focus of this article was on Microelectronics & Services, most other Materion business units supply the medical market, including:  Brush Performance Alloys, Technical Materials, Electrofusion, Ceramics, Large Area Coatings and Brush Beryllium & Composites.