The heat is on: Importance of innovations in the tubing supply chain

Joe Rowan, president and CEO Junkosha (Europe and USA), discusses the importance of innovations such as peelable heat shrink tubing (PHST) to tackle future challenges within the medical tubing supply chain.heat.jpg

The future of the medical tubing sector is highly dynamic, not least because there are a variety of pressures on organisations within this space to provide solutions that are not only of the highest quality but also deliver cost savings throughout the product lifecycle.

Take the catheter market as a prime example of these challenges. In the world of neurovascular and other complicated techniques, catheter manufacturers are being pushed for solutions that not only deliver complex procedures more efficiently but also provide cost savings at every turn. In what is a highly cost-conscious marketplace, PHST products that enable catheter manufacturers to advance efficiencies through streamlining their workflows is going from ‘nice to have’ to becoming a critical requirement.

Medical technology innovations: Needle-Free Diabetes Care. Diabetes self-care is a pain—literally. It brings the constant need to draw blood for glucose testing, the need for daily insulin shots and the heightened risk of infection from all that poking. Continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps are today's best options for automating most of the complicated daily process of blood sugar management – but they don't completely remove the need for skin pricks and shots. But there's new skin in this game. Echo Therapeutics (Philadelphia, PA) is developing technologies that would replace the poke with a patch. The company is working on a transdermal biosensor that reads blood analytes through the skin without drawing blood. The technology involves a handheld electric-toothbrush-like device that removes just enough top-layer skin cells to put the patient's blood chemistry within signal range of a patch-borne biosensor. The sensor collects one reading per minute and sends the data wirelessly to a remote monitor, triggering audible alarms when levels go out of the patient's optimal range and tracking glucose levels over time.

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The PHST market is an exciting area to be in. Not only does it aim to address healthcare customers’ unmet needs, solutions including ultra-small PHST also pave the way for progressively smaller catheter-based procedures - a continual requirement for medical device manufacturers.

The reasons, aside from their desire to meet the healthcare sector’s needs, are because PHST ultimately reduces Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for the catheter manufacturer. Since companies no longer have to use the process of skiving the heat shrink material from the catheter, PHST can help them produce the final product more rapidly with improved yields and lower inspection levels while being more ergonomically safe.

In addition, as the healthcare sector continues to push for cost savings to be made all the while delivering excellent patient care, solutions such as Junkosha’s 2.5:1 PHST are a viable option. Providing the ability to rationalise processes in the manipulation of a catheter’s baseline materials by reflowing these quickly and efficiently, this solution can potentially act as a catalyst to provide cost savings for catheter manufacturers. According to Robert LaDuca, CEO of medical device tubing and catheter components manufacturer Duke Empirical, there are a number of applications where this new high ratio PHST technology will enable better processes and cost savings. These include tapered cardiovascular devices such as multi-lumen braid reinforced Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters (PICC), alongside a wide variety of next generation catheter designs that have varying diameters such as cardiac implant delivery systems where the implant is located in a distal segment of the catheter that is usually larger than the proximal portion of the shaft.

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In addition to enabling new processes for manufacturers in their development of innovative products, and the faster and more forceful recovery of the 2.5:1 PHST products can help reduce or eliminate air entrapment which can be an unwanted cause of bubbles and associated product defects such as fish eyes, voids, and insufficient strength of bonded layers.

Into the future, numerous challenges face the medical tubing supply chain in the US and European markets including; stringent regulation, the need to make procedures less invasive and the enablement of a wider variety of operations across harder to reach parts of the body, increasing health care costs and the need to streamline workflows and processes - especially for catheter manufacturers.

Although these various challenges differ around the world, they all require one thing - innovations that improve outcomes for patients and provide clinicians and other end-users with technologies that make their lives easier, reduce costs, and save time. For this reason, continuous innovation must be at the heart of the health care sector’s requirements. Without this, the unmet needs will continue to be just that: unmet.

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