Let’s talk about incontinence
Let’s talk about incontinence
When it comes to speaking about diseases and their impact on patients, carers and families, we don’t normally jump at the chance to talk about incontinence. Many people are embarrassed to discuss it – whether it be from their own experience, from supporting family members suffering from it, or because it just isn’t as sexy as diabetes and cardiovascular disease (which have similar prevalence rates). But we need to talk about incontinence.
We need to talk about it for the almost 400 million people worldwide suffering from this disease which equates to 4-8% of the European population. Incontinence impacts people in an entirely different way than many other disease areas because it often causes social embarrassment, reduced employment, work productivity and leisure opportunities, social exclusion, and a significant strain on the relationships between patients and their partners or informal caregivers.
What policymakers can do
Given the ongoing discussions around cost-effectiveness of health systems and health system performance, policymakers have a responsibility to ensure that healthcare policies incentivize better detection and proper initial assessment and treatment of incontinence for this large patient population. Particularly because incontinence will likely become more prevalent with the ageing population of Europe. It’s time we make policy changes for friends and family that are suffering silently and we can start that by talking about incontinence - and the service and product needs of patients and their carers. Then we can begin to make positive changes that benefit all stakeholders.
Let’s get concrete: patients need specialised nurses
The problem with not talking about incontinence is that patients continue to suffer from limited access to solutions, which can manage or treat the disease in the most optimal way. Given that many Member States do not have specialised nurses in the community and the knowledge and focus of general practitioners are usually not very high in this area, incontinence patients often encounter improper initial assessments, or even misinformation about care options, and often are required to undergo more invasive and more costly treatments than are necessary.
We need to re-think how incontinence should be treated in a community care setting, particularly by supporting education and training programmes for specialised continence nurses. Studies have shown that having a continence nurse practitioner in a GP practice is likely to reduce the level of incontinence, improve quality of life and reduce costs from a payer as well as from a total societal perspective. And most importantly, this approach leaves patients much more satisfied with their care.
What the medical technology industry can do
It’s easy to call on others to take action, but the medtech industry also needs to understand its role in making life easier for those with incontinence. Our first priority should of course be providing products which help preserve patients’ dignity, decrease their dependency on others, and improve their quality of life. But we also need to widen our horizon, look at the patient pathway from a holistic perspective and be partners for payers and policymakers in the reorganization of care.
At the end of day these are our friends, family members, maybe even colleagues. There is a lot we can do to make things better for them. It’s time we all—members of industry, payers, policymakers, health and social care providers - put some more thought into how to get that done.
- Eszter Kacskovics, Public Affairs Director, SCA Hygiene Products, Incontinence Care Europe