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Market Analysis: Patient Positioners

by John Wallace

Patient positioners play an important role in healthcare from the prevention of pressure ulcers to assisting with surgeries and recovery. These devices can also be vital when it comes to robotic surgery procedures.

Since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) deemed pressure ulcers an event that should never take place, the market has grown for patient positioners that can reduce pressure on the skin.

An aging U.S. population is another factor that could impact the market, according to Earl Cole, Vice President of Innovative Medical Products Inc. Innovative Medical Products manufacturers patient positioning devices for orthopedic surgical procedures. The company is focused on developing and marketing innovative products to benefit and improve efficiency in the operating room and hospital clinics where patient stability and positioning are required. Its primary focus has been in orthopedics, anesthesiology, radiology and home healthcare.

“The real market growth in positioners could come from the demographics,” said Cole. “As baby boomers age more and enter their 70s, there will be a big surge in total hip replacement procedures and, therefore, an acute need for more positioners.”

“As our population ages but still remains active, joint injuries are occurring more than ever,” Cole added. “Sports medicine utilizes an array of patient positioners including distraction devices for small-incision, arthroscopic procedures. For example, knee surgery, probably the most frequent consequence of sports-related injuries, relies more and more on distraction devices than on manual manipulation of the limb to distract the joint. Joint distraction positioners provide more accuracy for the surgeon and better surgical outcomes – two attractive benefits why these devices are in demand.”

An increase in the number of robotic surgery systems along with the techniques and procedures they allow has spurred growth in the patient positioner market. These more specific procedures require more specific positioners. The need for more precise movements during surgery also adds to the need for patient positioners.

“Robotic surgery and stable positioning go hand in hand,” Cole said. “You want the patient to be as stable as possible, so when the robot is doing its job, it can be as accurate as possible. Robotics are being used more and more in arthroscopic procedures. Smaller incisions mean less recovery time for the patient, which increases the popularity of this procedure. More arthroscopies require positioning solutions that provide the most stability.”

Span-America manufactures and markets a comprehensive selection of pressure management products for the medical market, including patient positioners.

Earlier this year, Span-America Medical Systems Inc. reported net income for the second quarter of fiscal 2014 was down compared to the second quarter of fiscal 2013. Net sales for the second quarter of fiscal 2014 were $14.7 million compared with $16.6 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2013.

“Span-America’s second quarter sales and earnings were below the second quarter of last fiscal year due primarily to lower sales of consumer bedding products and M.C. Healthcare product lines,” stated Jim Ferguson, president and chief executive officer of Span-America. “As we expected and previously announced, sales of consumer bedding products were down due to the loss of a large retail customer that selected a different supplier in a routine competitive bidding process for their everyday consumer bedding products. M.C. Healthcare’s sales to the provincial government in British Columbia were down $1.1 million compared with the same quarter last year due to changes in governmental budget allocations and restrained government spending.”

Ferguson said he expects the sale of medical products to increase.

“We expect modest growth in medical and industrial sales in the second half of fiscal 2014,” Ferguson said.

The company is optimistic about the future because of market trends.

“We are encouraged about future sales opportunities for our medical and custom products based on the activity that we are currently seeing in our markets,” concluded Ferguson.

Cole, of Innovative Medical Products, is also optimistic about the future of the patient positioner market because advances have made the devices more reliable.

“Healthcare providers have accepted patient positioners because they do what they’re supposed to do – provide stability for the patient during surgery,” Cole said. “Before that, when performing hip replacements, for example, the surgical team would literally use tape and straps, or later, the beanbag, to keep the patient in the lateral position. But these efforts could never do the job, as there was most always patient movement. Patient positioners, on the other hand, provide the stability required.”

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