For more than 20 the Medical Design Excellence Awards have celebrated medtech products that improve the quality of healthcare and accessibility. From prosthetic legs to breast pumps, over the years, MDEA has always been a spotlight of the greatest innovation in medtech.
This year was no different – with a wide variety of innovations coming from all segments of medtech. Just like any other year, jurors from all over the country shuffled into a conference room at the Anaheim Convention Center to see which products would be finalists for the MDEA. One trend seemed to stand out – the increasing presence and digital health technologies.
MD+DI has been tracking trends in past awards programs, so they’re not necessarily new. When the program was launched in 1998, we noted a trend in the very first group of MDEA finalists toward “meaningful focus on the patient.”
Nearly two years ago, MD+DI reported that due to the increasing adoption of health apps and other tools, the digital health market is expected to grow to $60 billion in 2020 – an increase of 33%. Those stats began bleeding into this year’s MDEA awards. (It should be noted that in 2018 digital health products did not make it as finalists for MDEA.)
It can be difficult to judge the design of a digital health technology especially if it’s an app. During the February judging, one juror joked, “the apps are not that shiny.”
But the concept of medical devices is changing with the addition of algorithms and artificial intelligence. Peerbridge Health’s wearable ECG sensor is perhaps an example of this. The technology is a finalist in for the 2019 MDEAs.
The Peerbridge Cor Wearable ECG sensor provides real time continuous, multi-channel ECG recording and patient-activated event data transmission for up to 7 days. Peerbridge's sensor records 2-channel, 3-lead ECG data continuously, with the goal of improving patient compliance via its minimal size and simplicity of operation.
“The presence of multiple channels is important,” a juror said regarding one of the features on Peerbridge Health’s technology.
Michael Wiklund, a General Manager – Human Factors Engineering, Emergo by UL and juror for MDEA, told MD+DI about the size of past ECG monitors and the space these devices occupied. He noted past iterations of ECG technology weren’t as convenient for the patient or the clinician.
“They’ve done a good job of collecting the information and providing it to the clinician,” Wiklund said in reference to Peerbridge’s technology.
New York-based Peerbridge’s technology automatically brought up comparisons to the iRhythm’s Zio Patch. iRhythm has been making a sizeable dent in the market and has helped bolster the importance of wearables to monitor cardiovascular activity.
Another technology that brought in a significant amount of attention in the digital health category was the Pulm Ex. It is a mobile-based video game that presents interventional pulmonologists with challenging clinical and surgical scenarios using ultra-realistic, virtual patients.
From training on medical devices to performing life-like virtual bronchoscopies, Pulm Ex prepares physicians using real cases submitted by peers. Pulm Ex offers CME and available free in the Apple Store.
The gammaCore Sapphire is another digital health solution that managed to catch the attention and eye of jurors. The device is a non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator (nVNS), that prevents cluster attacks and relieves migraine and episodic cluster headache pain. Placed on the neck over the vagus nerve, gammaCore sends an electric current through the skin to the nerve, toward the brain, disrupting processes that cause certain types of pain.
ElectroCore launched the device in the Summer of 2018.
The Abbott Freestyle Libre Flash was one of the most popular technologies in the category (see MDEA Finalist list to see how well it fared in the competition). The FreeStyle Libre, which won approval from FDA about two years ago, offers people with diabetes a way to track glucose levels without fingersticks. In July of last year, the company won a nod from FDA for a 14-day version of the device.
Here’s how the device works. A quick scan of the handheld reader over a sensor worn on the back of the upper arm gives users a visual snapshot of their current glucose levels and patterns, providing actionable information that empowers them to better manage their health.
“You’re talking about a real breakthrough in terms of giving people greater freedom because the technology is closed-loop,” Wiklund said. “I think this is the kind of product that signifies where the industry is going. We’re going to smaller and smaller devices to sometimes rid people of tedious and sometimes painful interventions to administer medication or monitor their glucose levels.”
But it wasn’t all about digital products.
There were a few devices in the Over-the-Counter and Self-Care Products category that led to some very significant discussion about the Elvie Pump and the Willow Breast Feeding Pump. Last year, the Willow breast pump (developed by the Willow team) was the gold winner in MDEA. This year, the Elvie Pump was thrown into the competition and caused quite a stir.
The Elvie Pump is the first silent wearable breast pump and is also the world’s smallest, lightest wearable breast pump. It sits discreetly inside a standard nursing bra and silently expresses milk. offering greater mobility and freedom to breast pumping mothers to carry out everyday activities.
“It seems as if [Elvie] has addressed some of the weaknesses Willow has had,” a juror noted.
It would be interesting to see what would happen if both the Willow and the Elvie Pump could be put in front of MDEA jurors – but alas.
To hear the Gold, Silver, and Bronze MDEA winners as well as the Best in Show winner announced, join us June 11 at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City. The ceremony is open to all attendees of Medical Design & Manufacturing East, held June 11-13. Click here to register for the show.