This year's entries in the MDEA competition posed a couple of challenges for the judges. First of all, there were many terrific new devices to evaluate. It seems that every year they get a little better, making it hard to decide what not to give an award to, notes Jury Chair Steve Wilcox. Wilcox is principal of Design Science (Philadelphia). The other difficulty, he says, is that there were excellent entries that were extremely simple, and excellent entries that were extremely complex, sometimes in the same category, forcing the judges to wrestle with the “apples and oranges” problem. In the end, the jury tried to evaluate each product on its own merits.
“We gave awards for handling big, complex systems intelligently and awards for coming up with simple, elegant new solutions to old problems,” he says.
The design of medical devices has seen a slow but sure evolution to products designed to reduce the cost of healthcare, which has often led to moving traditional hospital devices to the patient's home. With that evolution, these devices have also managed to include more functions and empower patients. It was clear that quite a few of this year's Medical Design Excellence Award winners are leaders of this trend. Others focus squarely on patient safety, with the result being some amazing products that may even seem simple on first glance.
Miniaturization and portability were among the approaches companies used to make devices more convenient for patients. Making them smaller means that the users can go about their daily routines with little disruption. But, this is no small task. These tiny devices, from an in-ear hearing aid to an on-the-nose sleep apnea device, are enabling patients with chronic conditions to function more easily.
“The products we judged this year consisted of much wider variety than previously submitted,” notes juror Yadin David, PhD. “Products are becoming more user-intuitive with attention to features like human factors engineering and a higher focus on patient safety and process improvement,” he says. David is founder of Biomedical Engineering Consultants LLC (Houston).
Patient—and caregiver—safety is making headlines much more often these days—usually in a negative way. But some of the MDEA-winning devices will be helping to reverse that trend. Devices ranged from one that reduces the occurrence of pressure ulcers to a keyboard that is easy to clean, reducing the risk of bacteria cross-contamination. One of the biggest problems making the news is the increase in hospital-acquired infections. To help reign in the annual cost of treating patients that contract MRSA, hospitals need simple, low-cost tests such as this year's award winner. From the simple to the complex, though, the overarching trend was certainly reducing the cost of healthcare. You can read more about how this is being accomplished on the following pages.