Healthcare products should be chosen for quality not price, say German hospital directors

7 February 2007

Berlin, Germany. German medical technology companies and sickness funds agreed that competing on product quality is better than a price-based economy. That was one of the findings of BVMed's January conference on the German health reforms.

Some 100 delegates assembled in Berlin to hear hospital directors' association (VKD) president Heinz Kolking issue a warning that the concept of hospital buying clubs, which put pressure on prices, is coming nearer. On the contrary, he said, what is needed is for product quality to be at the leading edge of healthcare provision. High-quality brands — such as those in the hip implant and pacemaker sectors, for instance — can only be built by "partnerships" between medical technology manufacturers and service providers.

AOK sickness insurance fund director Hans Jurgen Ahrens concurred with Mr Kolking. IKK sickness fund director Rolf Stuppardt went further, saying: "Cheap goods is not the route we want to go down." He said the insurance funds were ready to work in partnership with manufacturers, to which BVMed director Joachim Schmitt replied that the industry, too, is willing to enter into dialogue with medtech aids service providers.

Mr Stuppardt commented on the problem that certain manufacturers of palliative care products were not able to become partners of the sickness funds, as the post-reform concept will be for business to be secured by tendering for contracts. This obviously does not suit those manufacturers who will be effectively locked out of trading, or patients, who are used to locally-supplied care aids, and will sometimes require a high degree of service and support for those products. In this case, perhaps collective contracts could be the answer, said the IKK director.

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