Prof. Dr. h. c. Ludwig Georg Braun: Sustainability as a Challenge between Product Safety and Quality

 

Safety is increasingly important in medical care. In the hectic daily routine of hospitals, where lives are at stake, doctors and nurses alike need medical prod­­ucts that not only support the treatment but also offer both them and their pa­­tients a high degree of safety. This applies not just to the individual product, but to the entire course of treatment. At B. Braun, we see our role as con­­tinu­ously enhancing products and processes in order to be able to serve the health market in the best possible way.

Trust is crucial in medical care. This is true not only for the patients, who want to rest assured that they are in good hands and receiving optimum treatment, but also for the medical personnel, who count on tech­­nology that can be operated reliably and without risks. Both need trust, and trust is based on safety. This is where the indus­­try can provide support in the form of products and system solutions that work reliably while at the same time improving the safety of pa­­tients and users through innovative de­­velopments.

An example: Every year, millions of people from around the world celebrate Okto­­berfest together in Munich. While it is fun for many, it is hard work for the paramedics. They have to take care of a large number of people. This may also include the need to insert an in­­travenous cannula to treat circulation problems. If a first aider inadvertently pricks himself with a used needle contaminated with blood, this can have grievous con­­sequences, as the blood could be infected with a life-­threatening disease. This means that doctors and nurs­­ing staff require needles which protect them reliably against injuries and contact with blood without interfering with routine processes by re­­quiring additional actions. The same is true for medical personnel, nursing staff and even cleaners in hospitals and doctor’s surgeries. This is why we developed IV catheters with self-­­activating safety clips which reliably protect against injuries from needle stabs years ago. Such mechanisms are now mandatory by law.

Safety in surgery. Safety issues are also the top priority in surgery. Besides treat­­ment processes and medical methods, this also applies to the associated products. These must be easy, safe and – ideally – intuitive to use. Our surgical and orthopaedic branch Aesculap, for ex­­ample, has developed a scalpel in which the blade can be pushed back into its shaft via a mech­­anism in the handle with a slight move­­ment of the finger. This en­­sures that nobody gets hurt when the scalpel is passed on during surgery, thus reducing the probability of infection for patient and doctor.

These are only two of the many developments that are targeted at raising safety standards in medical care.

With users and patients in mind. Natu­rally, safety in medicine refers to both patients and users. Both groups must be protected dependably, but using different means and not necessarily against the same risks. For patients, for example, it is important that the drips they receive are not contaminated or even make them sick. Risks could arise if the infusion contained solid or gaseous components. This can occur, for instance, when air bub­­bles are contained, medications inter­­act or components such as plastic or glass get into the solution.

The staff must be protected against stab injuries caused by needles as well as against contact with blood. But direct con­­tact with pharmaceuticals when pre­­par­­ing or conducting a treatment can also endanger staff.

To be able to reach both groups exposed to such diverse hazards effectively with a single approach, it is necessary to look at the treatment process as a whole. Frequently, one of the first steps is to simplify the pro­­cess. The fewer individ­ual steps are required, the fewer sources of trouble there are. This alone often results in increased safety.
Furthermore, the remaining individual steps also need to be examined closely in order to be able to arrive at a “com­plete solution”. To achieve a comprehen­sive solution like this, our hospital branch Hospital Care is work­ing on the further development of closed systems, needle-­­­free sys­tems and safe intravenous access lines. These aspects are not yet a matter of course worldwide by any means.

Moreover, Hospital Care is also working on the use of ma­­terials whose ingredients are not harmful to the en­­vi­ron­ment or which minimise the risk of infection due to bacte­­riostatic properties. In line with this, B. Braun is de­­velop­ing a new pro­­duct design. All products follow one line with regard to system safety, ergonomics and applica­tion as well as the design of the packaging. Last but not least, fast and reliable delivery capabilities also contrib­ute to safety.

 

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Economic and ecological effects. There is a growing awareness of the relevance of safety aspects when work­ing in hospitals. In addition to enhanced protection for pa­­tients and users, organisational and eco­­nomic effects are key. Accordingly, many clinics attach great importance to seeing their concept on the topic of safety re­­flected in their choice of medical goods.

Of course, disposable products which are discarded im­­mediately after use are indis­­pensable for many applications. But re­­sources can be saved through good quality here, too. If inferior gloves tear too easily, for example, physicians and nursing staff may have to change the glove more than once just while putting it on.

However, the correlation between quality, safety and sustainability is not limited to disposable products. In medical technol­­ogy, in IV pumps or dialysis machines for example, quality ensures not only a higher degree of reliability and therefore safety, but also a longer service life for the device, which means that it will need to be re­­placed less frequently. The same applies to high-quality surgical instruments. Sustainability also includes spare parts and accessories being available dependably in the long term and services relating to all aspects of maintenance being provided.

All in all, it is the industry’s duty to con­­tinuously recog­nise needs, respond with a corresponding range of pro­­ducts and services and set new standards.

 

Press_Photos_Braun-KopieThe author is the chairman of the super­­visory board of the B. Braun Melsungen AG and was the president of the German Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. For his merits in science and arts, the honorary doctor of the university of Freiburg was honoured by the federal state of Hessen in the year of 2006 by being awarded the title of a professor.