Research and Development
FOCUS OF OUR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
In our core business, the care of patients with chronic kidney failure, our R&D work is defined in particular by the following requirements and trends:
Advances in medicine and technology:
Dialysis is still a relatively young discipline. It has only been available as a standardized treatment, i.e. with reliable, repeatable results, for about 50 years. More and more research is being carried out on the complex interactions and concomitant effects that occur when the kidney stops functioning. Parallel to new medical findings, the technological possibilities for treating patients have improved. For Fresenius Medical Care’s research and development, this means quickly translating new insights into market-ready advances and innovations, thereby significantly contributing to gentler, safer and more individual patient treatment. Relevant technological trends include new developments in information technology, technologies that help to make products gradually smaller and simplify their use, the integration of various treatment elements into holistic therapy systems, and the application of promising procedures such as sorbent technology. How we can make patient treatment even safer with the use of technological innovations is illustrated here.
The increase in concomitant diseases:
Patients with chronic kidney failure are growing older – on the one hand, because society is aging overall and the risk of chronic kidney failure increases with age, and on the other, because advances in medicine are also raising the life expectancy of kidney patients. The older patients get, however, the greater the likelihood of concomitant diseases occurring, for example severe cardiac and vascular conditions. They typically appear when the body is permanently overhydrated as a consequence of kidney failure. Due to their increasing prevalence and new scientific insights, we have extended the focus of our research and development activities to include the side effects of chronic kidney failure such as these, and are developing diagnostic and therapeutic systems that go beyond dialysis itself. An example of such a diagnostic instrument can be found here.
The sustained growth in the number of patients: More people than ever are suffering from chronic kidney failure. It is estimated that by 2020, there may be almost 4 M kidney patients worldwide. This trend is accelerated by the increase in the number of people suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes – typical precursors of kidney failure that are becoming more and more common around the globe due to “diseases of affluence”, such as a lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet, or obesity. For this reason, one key focus of our research and development is on home therapies – peritoneal dialysis, home hemodialysis and, in the long term, the wearable artificial kidney – along with the related technology and products. After all, treatment at home not only provides suitable patients ( see here) with greater freedom in their daily lives; it also helps to solve the problem of limited capacity in dialysis clinics and gives people who live in areas with a weak healthcare infrastructure access to treatment that may not have been available otherwise. An example of our work in the home therapy sector can be found here.
The rising pressure of healthcare costs:
An aging population, the spread of chronic illnesses and the commitment to new or improved technology in patient care – these trends all present financial challenges to healthcare systems, as emphasized in the 2010 WHO (World Health Organization) World Health Report. In recent years, this situation has been aggravated by the financial and economic crisis. Even more reason for Fresenius Medical Care to abide by a principle that is also specified in our internal research guidelines: Innovations must not only be of high quality, but they must also be affordable so that patients can actually benefit from them. Based on our long-term experience in operating our own dialysis clinics, these are not incompatible demands. High-quality treatment is also cost effective because it minimizes risks and complications and thereby avoids additional expenses, for example due to hospitalization. Our research and development is working to develop products and services that help our customers to provide high-quality care to their patients at an affordable price. Examples can be found here.