Future Products and Services
We plan to spend approximately $105 M on research and development in the current financial year. In 2012, we expect research and development expenditures to amount to approximately $115 M. The number of employees (currently 503 full-time equivalents) in this area is expected to rise only marginally in 2011 and 2012.
As a vertically integrated company that manufactures and sells its own dialysis products as well as operating its own dialysis clinics, we aim to offer a complete portfolio of high-quality products and services for the treatment of chronic kidney failure that can be adapted flexibly to local market conditions and to the, in some cases, dynamic changes in healthcare systems and reimbursement structures. In view of the growing challenge faced by healthcare systems to provide comprehensive, high-quality yet cost-effective care for an increasing number of patients, we want to use this extensive portfolio more and more to offer our healthcare partners all-in-one or integrated concepts for patient care. Thanks to our business model and our long-standing experience in operating an international network of clinics, we are in a particularly strong position to offer comprehensive high-quality solutions of this kind from a single source; see “Opportunities” section.
One focus of our research and development work will be to develop innovations that incorporate additional treatment elements into our products and services or help to better align them – always with the aim of improving the quality, safety and cost-efficiency of treatment in equal measure. For example, we will be working on devices for our hemodialysis machines that reduce the handling of the bloodline system and its connections to just a few operations, thereby easing the workload of clinic staff. We will also be looking at integrating the dosage and administration of certain drugs into the dialysis machine cycle, along with new functions to improve the quality and safety of treatment.
Also in the interest of more comprehensive patient care, we will continue to focus our software development efforts on developing integrated system solutions for clinical quality data management. These will be designed to enable a larger volume of data to be captured faster and more easily, enhance the quality of the data and thus continuously improve treatment. It is feasible in the long term, for example, that these systems will not only record the complete history of a patient’s hemodialysis treatment, but also manage data as early as the preliminary stages of chronic kidney failure so that treatment can be better coordinated and possible preventive measures applied more specifically. A common data management solution for peritoneal and hemodialysis patients could also help to improve the coordination of treatment and thus its quality. These two patient groups are now normally logged in separate IT systems, although many peritoneal dialysis patients frequently switch to hemodialysis after a certain period due to the limitations of using the human peritoneum as a dialysis membrane.
In general, we will also continue to look into the issue of how new scientific and technological findings can be used to further improve the quality of life of a growing number of patients with chronic kidney failure – such as through innovations in home therapies. Treatment safety will remain at the forefront of our efforts to continuously improve our products and services, and the concomitant diseases of chronic kidney failure will also remain a focus of our research. For example, we are planning to publish a study into left ventricular hypertrophy (enlarged left heart chamber) in dialysis patients, which we are conducting with the help of the Body Composition Monitor (BCM); see “Research and development” section.
A further research topic is transferring the blood-cleansing dialysis process to other illnesses, like liver disease, septicemia or certain autoimmune and metabolic disorders. In the long term, we will continue researching new approaches to treating severe kidney and liver disease based on regenerative medicine. To do this, we work together with internationally renowned scientific institutions and universities that conduct research on adult liver and kidney stem cells.
Finally, we want to contribute further to reducing the environmental impact of our products and services during their lifecycle as far as possible.