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.
The 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.