Dream Devices that Would Revolutionize Healthcare

Posted by Brian Buntz on January 17, 2012

Image from Flickr user h.koppdelaney

Last week, we posted an article titled “Experts Pick What's Hot in Medical Device Technology,” which provided a survey of medical technologies under development that could revamp healthcare. The experts surveyed for that feature were members of our very own editorial advisory board, which represents experienced medtech professionals and consultants to the industry.

Here, we’ll take a look at their view of dream devices that could revolutionize healthcare.

Orthopedic devices with embedded electronics. “Chip-based orthopedic devices could communicate the state of the device,” says Frank Pokrop, director of regulatory affairs at CareFusion. They could report if “OK” and provide data such as normal wear and stress. In addition, this technology could issue alerts when wear, particles or stress reaches an unusual level.

Self-monitoring stents. These devices might have a limited by battery life, but, they could provide reports or alerts regarding the condition of stent, incuding feedback regarding acceptable level of openness, alerts when openness starts to change, and alerts when cholesterol and other biological material starts to accumulate in and around the stent, according to Pokrop.

Alarm technology. Stephen Wilcox, PhD, principal at Design Science (Philadelphia), dreams of “a truly integrated alarm system that takes input from all the devices in the room (e.g., the ICU or OR) and rationalizes the whole thing, so the medical professionals get a smart signal from one place.” 

Sterilization breakthroughs. “A faster sterilizer that would not only sterilize health care product and package, but leave them with a preservative that would reduce contamination and infections upon application and use,” says Wayne Rogers, an independent consultant in the healthcare industry based in Phoenix. 

Microbe image from Flickr user musicalwds

Rapid microbial identification systems. “The continued evolution of rapid microbial identification systems and their application to healthcare,” says Robert Reich, the president of LexaMed, Ltd. (Toledo, OH). “Pre-admittance identification of potential patient-harbored pathogens will allow prophylactic treatment of patents thereby reducing the potential spread of hospital-acquired infections as well reducing the risk of patient nosocomial infections. Such a system could be utilized as triage in ambulances as well as emergency rooms. It could provides a potential significant cost saving to hospitals and the healthcare system in general.”

Replacement body parts. “Inexpensive manufactured working body parts and organs (arms, legs, heart, lungs, kidneys etc) could be used in third world countries to restore mobility and health,” says Richard Lincoff, client partner/medical devices industry lead at Cognizant (Greater St. Louis area).

An injectable cure would be developed to eradicate any specific cancer identified. 

A screening device for cancer. “I envision one day a screening device for cancer,” says Steve Mozelewski, senior manager, sleep diagnostics engineering at Philips Home Healthcare Solutions at Monroeville, PA. “ For example, an individual can have their DNA scanned (right now costs about $1000) and potential cancer markers identified. Based on this, an injectable cure would be developed to eradicate any specific cancer identified,” Mozelewski, says. “ Per WHO, 7.6 million deaths in 2008 were caused by cancers, 70% of which had no behavioral or dietary cause. I would liken this technology to the development of the polio vaccine by Salk in the 1950s. Prior to that, you would watch your friends pass away with little ability to do anything. The vaccine eliminated polio as a real issue. Love to see the same with cancer. Of course, this technology could then be expanded to many other types of disease-states (moral issues aside…) I admit, this technology does not directly affect everyone or healthcare as a whole, but it would certainly be exciting and wonderful,” he adds. 

Technologies that treat as they diagnose. “In general, devices that bring greater access to healthcare and deliver therapeutics at the time of diagnosis could reduce treatment time and repeated patient visits,” says John Delucia, vice president for regulatory affairs and quality assurance for iCAD Inc. (Beavercreek, OH).

Delucia provides examples: 

  • Simple to use blood analysis sensors to provide real-time results in a typical office setting rather than waiting days for results and delaying potential treatment. 
  • Delivering radiation intraoperatively at the time cancer excision. 
  • Automated pathology devices that can detect disease states (cancer) during surgery or at biopsy where the patient can go on to treatment immediately. 
  • Less expensive diagnostic imaging devices that can be used in the field or in under-developed countries 

Spock holds a tricorder device.

The tricorder. “I am not a 'Treky' but we continue to move towards the realization of the mythical tricorder that can scan a patient and help diagnose what is wrong,” says Bill Evans, principal and founder of Bridge Design (San Francisco). “My dream device for medical technology hasn’t changed much since I first saw it [on Star Trek],” says Andrew Dallas, president and CTO of Full Spectrum Software. “What is truly exciting is that [tricorder] technology, forecast decades ago, is also becoming a reality. As a private pilot, I have seen how the iPad has revolutionized the cockpit. In the same way, the power of handheld devices, combined with advanced, external and implantable sensors and active devices should continue to advance patent healthcare. This includes a huge range of disease states including diabetes, pain, epilepsy, depression, heart failure and more.”

“Think about how much money is spent dealing with treating chronic disease, how much good preventative medicine is not delivered, and how noncompliant patients can be,” recommends Bill Evans of Bridge Design. To deal with the problem, Evans envisions moving towards a mobile wireless device that requires no action by a patient to report critical patient parameters back to ‘HQ’ where artificial intelligence and real people can monitor and help patients catch problems before they become costly.”

Anti-aging technology. Eliot Lazar, MD, principal of ElCon Medical (Buffalo, NY). has in mind "something that halts the aging process on demand." 

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