Over-the-counter, or OTC, orthopedic devices have long been recognized as an irreplaceable segment of the modern medical device market. With 2011 reports estimating that more than two percent of all osteoarthritis patients chose orthopedic surgery, devices like braces continue growing in popularity.1 For patients, therapists, physicians and other caregivers, increased awareness of the benefits of OTC orthopedics and rising product availability could translate to improved treatment practices and better long-term outcomes.
Where Are Trends Headed?
In October 2016, economic observers predicted that the OTC orthopedic braces market would grow by 4.8 percent annually until attaining a total value of $1.33 billion in 2021.2 Globally, regions like North America and Europe were key players in the field in 2016, but demand in Asia and elsewhere is also expected to grow.
Why Are OTC Orthopedics in Demand?
What’s driving the expansion? There are a few key factors:
Increased Patient Knowledge
Some assessments pin braces’ burgeoning popularity on an expanding middle class that's more familiar with the advantages of the technology. Compared to alternatives like invasive procedures and pharmaceutical regimens, braces could seem like attractive options due to their low cost and ease of use.
According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, less than 15 percent of the national population was 65 or older in 2014.3 By 2040, that number is projected to exceed 21 percent. These groups are at higher risk of falls, broken bones, sprains and other health troubles that might be less challenging with orthopedic braces.
It’s also worth noting that Medicare Part B covers many leg, neck and back braces as long as they’re medically necessary.4 As a result, they may be more viable treatment options for those who can’t afford other forms of health coverage.
The number of road accident and sporting injury victims is growing. Experts believe that these incidents contribute to a higher demand for orthopedic supports that can be used to strengthen muscles and joints during the rehabilitation period.5 With ligament injuries being some of the most common injuries across all sports, braces play a major role in helping participants heal effectively.
Superior Manufacturing and Distribution
Technologies and business models are also improving. Along with lowering product prices, new developments in materials science and novel fabrication methods are leading to increased comfort and reducing the size of formerly bulky devices. In 2014, market analysts also identified a rise in the number of braces manufacturers that outsourced precision fabrication services.6 Coupled with supplier consolidation, these factors contribute significantly towards the above-market growth exhibited by many orthopedic sectors.
What Does the Expansion of the Braces Market Mean for You?
Caregivers Can Heighten Service Quality
For doctors and physical therapists, a more robust braces market is a good thing. Manufacturers that want to capitalize are likely to offer more competitive pricing and new design innovations that let physicians provide their clients with a broader range of accessible treatment options. Practitioners with problematic patients may also have an easier time persuading these individuals to adhere to their treatment regimens if they involve the use of braces and orthopedics that seem minimally life-altering.
More Options for Patients and Users
Patients stand to benefit from greater access to orthopedic products and knowledge. Although most people are already familiar with devices like leg and arm orthopedics, there are a huge variety of similar options for other parts of the body. For instance, the University of Maryland Medical Center acknowledges more than 30 types of braces for spine disorders alone.
As manufacturers develop new technologies and optimize orthopedic designs, they’ll also market them to caregivers and publish information about their use in trade journals. Your primary physician may soon benefit from more comprehensive knowledge about different kinds of braces and be able to recommend a better option for your recovery. If you’re on Medicare or a private health insurance plan, your particular orthopedics are more likely to be covered if your doctor is able to justify your need, so their growing expertise definitely works to your advantage.
A Bright Future for OTC Orthopedics
The proliferation of OTC braces holds great promise for all. By letting more people take charge of maintaining their health, orthopedic devices stand to offer significant care improvements and help their users live more enjoyable lives. To see where this exciting industry is going next and to find the orthopedic brace that works for you, visit MMAR Medical today.