Smith & Nephew remains positive

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Smith & Nephew first entered the negative pressure wound therapy market in 2007 when it bought Blue Sky Medical, but the company has a long track record--150 years--of working in wound care. The NPWT market, currently about $1.2 billion annually in the United States, presents a "big, attractive opportunity," says Tom Dugan, president, North America for Smith & Nephew advanced wound management.

HME News: Is the negative pressure market still considered a young market?

Tom Dugan: It's not a mature market but it's well established. As clinicians understand what the benefits are of the therapy and the results that they get, they naturally expand it to different applications. They see that you can use it on everything from a chronic wound to a more acute wound that might have come out of a trauma situation.

HME: Why is it such a growth market?

Dugan: There's the general growth in the number of wounds that are treated, along with the growth in the number of trauma procedures performed. For example, in the military there have been such great advances in the care and treatment of warriors severely injured--years ago they would have died. Now they are able to do much more for them. You are left with better survival rates, which is a good thing, but more complicated wounds that have to be treated in a more sophisticated manner.

HME: What's your stand on competitive bidding?

Dugan: We are in favor of it for this category. Reducing cost in the healthcare system is a goal we are committed to. (Having said that), I don't think this is a situation where low price should prevail. There have to be some standards relative to the companies that are awarded contracts. Are they going to be able to provide the service levels and the support, from a clinical level, and from a product maintenance and quality assurance standpoint?

HME: And if the contract winners bid too low?

Dugan: Think about it. The NPWT system is used on patient A. The therapy is completed, the equipment is taken back and put on patient B. We want to make sure there's been an appropriate check and cleaning done on the system. To do that, you need to have a reasonable-sized infrastructure. If it gets to a situation where you just have these ultra-low costs on everything, they are going to cut corners. You're not going to get that level of quality assurance that I think is absolutely essential in health care. We can't be transmitting disease. It's a very important balance they are going to have to consider as they go forward with the program.