Bioengineering is an interdisciplinary field that applies physical, chemical, and mathematical sciences, and engineering principles to the study of biology, medicine, behavior, and health. It advances knowledge from the molecular to the organ levels, and develops new and novel biologically derived medications and devices, materials processes, implants, and informatics approaches for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, for patient rehabilitation, and for improving health. Bioengineers have employed mechanical engineering principles in the development of many life-saving and life-improving technologies, such as the artificial heart, prosthetic joints, diagnostics, and numerous rehabilitation technologies.
ASME is concerned that the United States faces rapidly growing challenges from our counterparts in the European Union and Asia with regards to bioengineering advancements. While total health-related US research and development investments have expanded significantly over the last decade, investment in bioengineering at the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, has remained relatively flat over the last several years. ASME wishes to emphasize that, in many instances, bioengineering-based solutions to health care problems can result in improved health outcomes and reductions in health care costs. For example, coronary stent implantation procedures cost approximately twenty thousand dollars, compared to bypass graft surgery at double the cost. Stenting involves materials science (metals and polymers), mechanical design, computational mechanical modeling, imaging technologies, etc. that bioengineers work to develop. Not only is the procedure less costly, but the patient can return to normal function within a few days rather than the months often required to recover from bypass surgery, greatly reducing other costs to the economy.
Bioengineering research is also helping to commercialize new technologies, such as new low-cost ultrasound imaging systems, which became commercially available after just seven years in development. Bioengineering-funded research and development also supports health care decision support systems for physicians that provide the latest evidence-based practices, improve consistency of care, reduce patient risk, helping to deliver health care solutions more safely and effectively and decreasing overall costs by up to 17% in pilot programs. Therefore, ASME urges Congress to consider increased funding for bioengineering across the federal government, and to work to strengthen these investments in the long run to reduce US health care costs and support continued US leadership in bioengineering.